Couch files grievance against Browns

The never-ending saga of quarterback Tim Couch took another twist when it was learned Thursday that he has filed a grievance against the Cleveland Browns, who barred him from reporting to this week's quarterback school or visiting team facilities.

The 14-practice quarterback school, while voluntary, includes 77 members of the team. Couch also was not allowed to practice at the recent minicamp.

"Tim would definitely be there practicing with the team if he were allowed to," IMG associate Andrew Kessler told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "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."

Asked about the situation at practice Thursday, Browns coach Butch Davis reiterated that he has no intentions of releasing Couch on June 1. If released before June 1, Couch's prorated signing bonus of $3.4 million would all be dumped on the 2004 salary cap. If released on or after June 1, the bonus would be split on the 2004 and 2005 caps.

It's hard to imagine Davis' comments being anything other than a last-ditch ploy to wrest a draft pick out of the Packers or another suitor. If the Browns are serious about keeping Couch as the backup, why not let him practice? Given the fragility of new starter Jeff Garcia and the inadequacies of the offensive line, the backup quarterback in Cleveland figures to get more than a few snaps of playing time.

By saying he has no plans to waive Couch, the message Davis wants to send to the rest of the league is "you're not getting Couch for free." The rest of the league, however, knows there's practically no chance the Browns will enter the season with former San Francisco 49er Garcia ($25 million over four years) as the starter and Couch and his hefty salary as the backup.

Couch said as much this week, telling the Plain-Dealer: "If they want me to be a backup for $7.6 million, I guess I could put everything behind me."

Meanwhile, according to Kessler, the Packers have not contacted Couch's agent, Tom Condon, in several weeks.

"The ball is still in the court of Tim and his agents," said Davis. "We're trying to help him get to another team."

One other possibility is the Browns will keep Couch in hopes a team's starting quarterback gets injured during training camp or the preseason. That would give the Browns leverage in trade talks.

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