Jul 25, 7:14 PM EDT
Browns' Couch Intends to Keep Job
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch showed up for the first day of training camp buffed, blond and ready for the fight of his football career.
"I'm definitely not going to back down," he said.
Six months of talk, rumors and conjecture ended Friday for Couch and Kelly Holcomb, who began their head-to-head competition to be Cleveland's starting quarterback as the Browns opened training camp.
Day One appeared to be a draw.
Coach Butch Davis, who decided to hold an open audition for his starter after Holcomb passed for 429 yards in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh, didn't think either of his quarterbacks was in midseason form.
"I thought everybody was a little rusty," he said.
They were definitely antsy.
Couch and Holcomb each expressed relief that they were back on the field and could finally focus on playing. Since February, Browns fans have been debating the virtues - and flaws - of both QBs on a daily basis.
It's been impossible to escape or ignore.
"The hardest part of the whole thing has been sitting around, the dead time," said Couch, who not only chiseled his body in the weight room during the offseason but also colored his hair. "This was an offseason where nothing was going on and everyone's talking about it. The easiest part is this part, actually being on the field and playing."
Couch, the league's No. 1 overall draft pick in 1999, led the Browns to eight wins last season before breaking his right leg in the season finale against Atlanta.
Enter Holcomb, who not only rallied the Browns to a win over the Falcons and a playoff berth, but then threw for the third most yards ever in an NFL playoff game.
A quarterback controversy was born. And so was a competition that the confident Couch says he's not afraid of.
"I've always had to fight for a job," Couch said. "My first year at Kentucky, there was a guy that started there a couple years and I had to beat him out. When I got here, it was a matter of whether it was going to be myself or Akili Smith or Donovan McNabb as the No. 1 pick. So I've always been under competition, and this is nothing new to me."
It's nothing new to Holcomb, either.
A career backup, the laid-back 30-year-old knows he's staring the chance of a lifetime in the face. However, Holcomb, who sat behind Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, insists he won't allow the situation to change him.
"It's an opportunity, it's what you work for your whole career," said Holcomb, who has attempted just 191 passes and thrown 10 TDs in a seven-year pro career. "But if you think about it as your one shot, you'll put too much pressure on yourself."
Davis has said he will name his starter before the third exhibition game on Aug. 23 against Detroit. There's a lot that can happen before that and many factors that will go into Davis' decision.
However, Browns president Carmen Policy said Couch's salary is not a consideration. Couch will make $6.2 million in 2003, compared to $1.8 million for Holcomb. The discrepancy has led some to think the organization is pulling for Couch because it has invested so much in him.
"The starting quarterback will be the player who can play the position best," Policy said. "It doesn't matter what he makes. What I'm rooting for is we have a quarterback playing for us who will win football games."
Couch is betting on himself to be that guy. It's a job he's had and one he has no intention of giving up. At least not without a fight.
"I know I can go out there and be successful," he said. "I know I can go out and make plays and I know I can win games. To me, there's no question in my mind that I can take this team to where it wants to go."