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Browns’ Couch could start Sunday against Titans

BEREA, Ohio – Butch Davis watched closely as Tim Couch worked with the Cleveland Browns’ starting offense yesterday. Davis studied every tight spiral, lob and wobbler thrown by his fourth-year quarterback.

“He went out and threw as if he wasn’t gone a minute,” he said.

Davis, who closed practice to the media for the first time this week, was encouraged by what he saw. But he’s still not ready to announce Couch as his starter for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

“I wish I could,” Davis said.

Couch has sat out the Browns’ first two games this season so he could rest his sore right elbow. He tore scar tissue in an Aug. 26 exhibition game against Green Bay.

This is the week doctors targeted for Couch to make his return to the lineup and replace Kelly Holcomb, his backup, who has done a superb job while Couch has been out.

Davis didn’t reveal much information on how Couch looked in practice.

“I think he had a good practice,” Davis said. “As I said 3 1/2 weeks ago, this is going to be a work in progress. There’ll be a day when he’ll walk in and there won’t be anything wrong. Maybe today was that day.”

Before practice, Couch said he has been throwing without any pain for nearly a week. He had hoped to start last Sunday against Cincinnati, but doctors recommended that he rest his arm for another week.

He reluctantly took their advice and now thinks it was the right thing to do.

“I’m excited about hopefully getting back out onto the field,” he said. “I think everyone is going to be fine with the arm. It’s been a long two weeks.”

Davis said one of the keys to whether Couch can play Sunday will be how his arm responds on Thursday after testing it.

“We’ll just have to see if he continues to respond positively, as he has the last couple weeks,” Davis said.

While Couch was out, Holcomb led the Browns (1-1) over Cincinnati. The career backup would be 2-0 if Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd hadn’t thrown his helmet in the closing seconds of the opener, costing Cleveland a victory over Kansas City.

Holcomb has completed 44 of 69 passes for 524 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and has a 111.0 quarterback rating – the NFL’s second highest – after two weeks.

But he knows that if Couch is healthy, Couch will start.

“If something happens this week and Tim can’t play, I’ve got to be ready,” Holcomb said. “It’s been great getting out there and playing. There are some things I could have done better. But I gained confidence.”

Davis said that if Couch starts and is not injured, he will finish. “If he’s playing well, absolutely,” Davis said. “If we decide that Tim is going to be the starting quarterback, then we have made the determination in these three days of practice that he’s 100 percent. “Pride aside and ego aside, and all the other reasons, Tim is no different that any other player on the team. He’s got to be able to do the things that we think he is going to have to do to win the game.” Davis refused to go into any details about injuries to some other players.

Defensive end Courtney Brown, who was inactive last week, is listed as questionable with a sore neck. So are starting tackle Ryan Tucker (knee), center Dave Wohlabaugh (broken hand) and tackle Roger Chanoine.

“I”m not going to get into who threw, who did what, who played or all that kind of stuff,” Davis said. “They practiced.”

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