Browns' Couch Overwhelmed By Support

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Tim Couch is being targeted by Browns fans again.

This time, though, he's not being booed. Cleveland's embattled quarterback has been overwhelmed with e-mails, letters and messages of support from fans worldwide.

"I haven't seen them all yet," Couch said Friday. "It's been real surprising and real positive."

It's been quite a week for Couch, who tearfully lashed out at Browns fans last Sunday night following a 26-21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Early in the fourth quarter, Couch sustained a mild concussion when he was hit by four defenders while recovering a fumble near Cleveland's end zone.

As he struggled to get up, some fans began cheering that Couch was hurt and backup Kelly Holcomb would have to come into the game.

Following the game, the fourth-year QB choked back tears as he criticized fans for their behavior. He stood by his remarks the next day, saying he'd rather play on the road and would never forget how he was treated.

As early as Monday morning, Browns fans began rallying around No. 2, flooding the team's switchboard with phone calls of support and sending messages to team headquarters.

When Couch arrived at the training facility early Wednesday morning, two fans were waiting to cheer him.

On Friday, Couch was presented with two bound folders containing 2,500 printed e-mails. More than 5,000 e-mails, cards and letters had been received, a team representative said.

Players and coaches around the league also have sent good wishes, including Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp -- who will try to sack Couch this Sunday when the Browns visit the Buccaneers.

"Disrespectful," Sapp said of the fans booing Couch. "The people of Cleveland should be ashamed. It's a great city with a lot of great fans. They should be ashamed of themselves."

Couch said he's learned several things from the experience.

"If you're the quarterback of an NFL team, that kind of stuff is going to happen to you," he said. "Every quarterback from (Dan) Marino to (John) Elway to everybody you want to name, has gone through getting booed out of the stadium.

"It's just something that happens to quarterbacks, you're the most visible guy on the field. It's the head coach and quarterback who get the blame, and I've got to learn how to control my emotions a little better."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)