In limbo, Couch files grievance Friday, May 21, 2004 Mary Kay Cabot Plain Dealer Reporter
Tim Couch has filed a grievance against the Browns because they will not permit him to work out with the team, IMG associate Andrew Kessler said Thursday.
Couch, still under contract with the Browns, has been prohibited from participating in the Browns' current quarterback school, which consists of 14 voluntary practice sessions for the whole team. About 77 players are participating. Couch also was banned from the off-season workout program and minicamp.
"Tim would definitely be there practicing with the team if he were allowed to," said Kessler. "Even if he knew the Browns were going to cut him, he would still want to be there preparing to be the best quarterback he can be."
Kessler said the ban threatens to hurt the 2004 season of Couch, who is working out at his off-season home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"He's not able to utilize the team's facilities or throw to receivers," said Kessler. "He's doing all he can to stay in shape on his own, but it's definitely not the same."
The grievance, filed through the National Football League Players Association, eventually will go to the NFL Management Council, which will appoint an arbitrator to hear the case. Kessler said he didn't expect the arbitrator to rule on the matter anytime soon. "It's a slow-moving process," he said.
Browns coach Butch Davis said Thursday after practice that he has no plans to cut Couch after June 1, the date his prorated signing bonus would be spread out over two years instead of accelerating into this year's salary cap. If Couch were cut before June 1, he would count about $3.4 million against the 2004 cap. If he's cut after June 1, the hit would be about $1.7 million this year and $1.7 million next year.
But Davis reiterated he's prepared to bring Couch to training camp as a backup to Jeff Garcia despite the fact his locker has been cleaned out and his nameplate removed. Asked how he would mend the fences after everything that has transpired, Davis said, "If and when that time comes about, then we'll deal with it."
Couch this week said, "If they want me to be a backup for $7.6 million, I guess I could put everything behind me."
But the Browns are hoping it won't come to that. The feeling is if they make it clear they're not going to cut him, someone will trade for him. The Green Bay Packers are still interested, but have not been able to work out a deal with Couch's agent, Tom Condon. If no trade occurs by the start of training camp July 30, the Browns could bring him back.
Asked Thursday if he were hanging on to Couch because Kelly Holcomb is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder, Davis said that's "not a factor at all."
Meanwhile, the Packers have not contacted Couch's agents in several weeks, Kessler said. Even though free-agent quarterback Kerry Collins canceled his visit to Green Bay, the Packers have not reopened talks with Couch.
"The ball is still in the court of Tim and his agents," said Davis. "We're trying to help him get to another team."
The Browns also could hang on to Couch in preseason until a veteran quarterback gets hurt and a team needs a starter. Whatever the case, they are determined not to give him away.
Dennis Northcutt said Thursday that negotiations between him and the Browns are up and down. "I'm hoping for the best and training hard," he said. "But right now, I see us as being far apart. I would like to be a Brown, but I don't know what's going to happen."
Northcutt is seeking a deal that would pay him more than $3 million a year. "Dennis has a number in mind and when we get close to that number, then we'll probably have Dennis back," said Davis.
Northcutt has been receiving advice from Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who lives near him in Los Angeles.
Kellen Winslow Jr. changed his tune from minicamp and said Thursday it's important to get to camp on time.
"It's all about reps, being there with the guys and meshing with the quarterback," he said. "I'm a competitive guy, so I want to be here, I want to do great things. If it [a contract dispute] gets to a week, I'll go nuts. But they traded a pick for me, so I'm sure they'll make a fair deal." Winslow asked Garcia to begin working with him one-on-one next week.
A few veterans missed QB school Thursday because of personal reasons. Andra Davis' mother-in-law died and James Jackson's wife had a baby. . . . Robert Griffith works out on his own and Gerard Warren has been here every day, but was absent Thursday for a personal matter. . . . Ebenezer Ekuban is back in Dallas recovering from a knee scope. . . . Courtney Brown (biceps tendon) is participating in team drills. . . . Holcomb will begin light throwing in two weeks.