Tim Couch's readiness, the back-up quarterback situation, and the latest on the challenges faced by Darren Hambrick and the defensive secondary."> Tim Couch's readiness, the back-up quarterback situation, and the latest on the challenges faced by Darren Hambrick and the defensive secondary.">

Afternoon Update from Berea

David Carducci offers up the story from Wednesday out at Berea. Here's the first word on <A HREF="http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=149&p=8&c=1&nid=293285&yr=2002">Tim Couch</A>'s readiness, the back-up quarterback situation, and the latest on the challenges faced by <A HREF="http://scout.theinsiders.com/a.z?s=149&p=8&c=1&nid=331043&yr=2002">Darren Hambrick</A> and the defensive secondary.

SHOW OF SUPPORT FOR COUCH: Tim Couch said he has been cleared by doctors to play Sunday in Tampa Bay. He is officially listed as probable on this week's NFL injury report.

When Couch arrived at the Browns' Berea training complex Wednesday morning, he was greeted by two fans dressed in brown and orange and carrying signs saying "2 of many who support No. 2." The fans showed up outside the facility before 7 a.m.

Couch sent a gift bag of Browns clothing and hats to thank the fans for their support.

Just 24 hours after hearing fans in Cleveland Browns Stadium cheer after he suffered a concussion against the Ravens, Couch received more than 600 e-mails from fans offering their support.

"It's been pretty shocking," said Couch. "I've got a ton of e-mails, and a ton of letters and phone calls from fans who have been showing support. It was surprising to be honest with you and it was uplifting and encouraging to see how many fans are actually behind me. I went out to lunch yesterday and had a lot of fans come up to me and say ‘hang in there, there are a lot of fans in this town who are behind you."

Tampa Bay coach John Gruden had a message for Couch during his teleconference with Cleveland media. He said to hang in there, "I get harassed at the gas station all the time."

BOOTY READY: With Kelly Holcomb out with a fractured tibia and a sprained knee, Josh Booty is now one snap away from running the show for the Browns' offense.

"I guess I have to be ready because I'm in there if Couch goes down," said Booty. "Heck, I have more time in the Major Leagues than I have in the NFL. I'm ready, though. I've been with this organization for more than a year, and learning behind Kelly Holcomb has really helped me let me know how to prepare (as a backup quarterback)."

While Booty may be untested at the NFL level, he is no tenderfoot when it comes to performing on the big stage. The former fifth overall selection in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft said he thinks his four years in the Florida Marlins system was a perfect warmup for what he will face as Couch's backup in the next few weeks.

"I've been through a lot," said Booty. "I played in the big leagues, but it was very sparingly. I'd get pinch-hit at bats and I backed up Bobby Bonilla (at third base) when I was up there. I had spurts where I was up for a month, then back down in the minors for a month. When I was up, I never knew when I was going to get an at bat, so I had to prepare every day as if I was going to go up against their pitcher.

"This is pretty much the same thing. I just have to get ready to go up against opposing defenses. Shoot, I'm going to prepare myself and study for everything they do, and if I get a chance, hopefully I'll show up and play well."

WHO IS NO. 3? Davis said it is unlikely that the Browns will sign a new third-string quarterback with Holcomb injured. With just Couch and Booty active, the Browns could consider using Kevin Johnson or even rookie Frisman Jackson as an emergency No. 3 quarterback.

Davis admitted that Jackson and Johnson have been taking snaps in practice to take pressure off Couch and Booty.

"Frisman and Kevin have both played quarterback before in college," said Davis. "It's a possibility that as the Browns did a couple of years ago, you could use them as potential backup quarterbacks."

Jackson joked, however, that "hell would probably have to freeze over before they put me in" at quarterback.

SECONDARY TROUBLE: Three starters in the Browns secondary did not practice Wednesday.

Devin Bush (groin), Robert Griffith (shoulder) and Corey Fuller (hamstring) are all listed as questionable.

HAMBRICK EXPECTED TO PLAY: The Browns are expecting Darren Hambrick to start at linebacker despite felony charges being brought against him for cashing duplicate paychecks when he played with the Carolina Panthers last season.

"To the best of my knowledge, we are practicing and preparing for Darren to play," said Davis. "As it stands right now, we see no reason he shouldn't play."

According to Davis, Hambrick told the Browns about his legal problem soon after he signed with the team. Davis said it is his understanding that Hambrick has made full restitution

"(Hambrick) said when he signed with the team that he started making restitution," said Davis. "He said there was still a little bit of an issue and he had been working with an attorney to try to get the issue resolved. It has just taken a while to get everything resolved to the satisfaction of the Florida court system.

"I don't think this is a major, significant distraction. He was very forthright. He came forth to us and made us aware of the situation. It is not something we dug up."


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