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Couch Embraces Fresh Start


When Tim Couch first joined the NFL as the first overall pick of the 1999 draft, he stepped on the stage at Madison Square Garden and held aloft the number 1 jersey of the expansion Cleveland Browns.

Just over five years later, Couch was in Green Bay, in front of a much smaller crowd at the Lambeau Field media auditorium, holding -- appropriately enough -- the number 2 jersey of the Packers.

Number 2, as in the number Couch wore at the University of Kentucky and with the Browns.

Number 2, as in the spot on the Packers' quarterbacks depth chart that Couch hopes to fill this season.

Number 2, as in a second chance to cash in on No. 1 potential.

"I'm excited about getting a new start," said Couch, who threw 64 touchdown passes and 67 interceptions, while being sacked 166 times in his five seasons with the Browns. "I think I could have made it in Cleveland. We could have made it work. But I am excited now that it's all over. I'm excited about the new opportunities."

Like, for example, the chance to join a proven winner.

In Couch's tenure in Cleveland, the Browns had a winning season only once, going 9-7 in 2002, when Couch started 14 games, completed 61 percent of his passes and threw a career-high 18 touchdowns. The Packers, meanwhile, haven't had a losing campaign since 1991, and last year were just one play away from advancing to the NFC championship game.

But Couch's first season away from the Browns will require him to make adjustments even more significant than that, most prominent of which has to do with his role on the team.

Drafted to be the cornerstone of the franchise in Cleveland, in the season ahead Couch needs only to be the man behind The Man in Green Bay.

"When I first came into the league, I got kind of thrown into the fire the second game of my rookie year, and I've been in it ever since," Couch said. "Now, getting a chance to step back from the game and just kind of learn the game, just kind of watch Brett (Favre) ... I think is going to be a great opportunity for me here without having the pressure for me to perform and having to learn at the same time."

Trying to pick up the Packers' West Coast offense will be challenging enough. Couch is without previous experience within the system and has missed out on valuable learning time because the Browns didn't release him until after the Packers' closed both of their mini-camps.

When training camp gets under way at the beginning of August, Couch will have to share reps not only with Favre, but three other quarterbacks -- Doug Pederson, Craig Nall and rookie Scott McBrien.

Couch said that he plans to spend as much of the interim as possible in Green Bay getting a crash course in the offense from quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell, so that he can at least have the terminology down when two-a-days begin. But he also admitted that his most valuable instruction will come from time on the field. And more than ever in his career, he's going to find playing time hard to come by.

But Couch was optimistic Thursday that he can make the situation work. Although only under contract through the 2004 season, he spoke optimistically that his time in Green Bay could carry on after that.

Clearly the future of Favre will have an effect, but Couch indicated that remaining in a backup role beyond 2004 wasn't out of the question.

"I'd be willing to do that," Couch said. "At the end of the year, we'll kind of have to sit down and look at it and see if the coaching staff is really wanting me here and if I want to be here. We've got the one-year deal in, and at the end of the year we can kind of evaluate where we're at and go from there with it."

And should Couch someday find himself in the position of replacing the three-time NFL MVP, he won't be worried.

"I've been a first pick in a franchise and had the pressure of being a franchise player," Couch said. "Following Brett would be something that I think would be a good thing, because there's only one Brett Favre.

"No one can come in and be Brett Favre, so I'm not even going to try to live up to that. I just know that if that time does come and I'm the starter here, I'm just going to come in and be myself.

"I know I can win games, and that will be good enough."

Tim Couch will participate in a Live Chat on, starting at approximately 1 p.m. CT, Friday, June 18.

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