Couch anxious to get started

The "I's" are dotted and the "T's" are crossed. Now it's time to hit the books.

In the longest courtship since Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck taunted Hollywood reporters, Tim Couch signed with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday. Ink met paper some 83 days after Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman met Couch over dinner on March 24 in Ohio.

Because the talks dragged on and on — Packers vice president of player operations Mark Hatley called it a "looooong process" — Couch says he needs to learn the Packers' offense quickly so he's up to speed when training camp starts Aug. 2.

"That's why I want to get up there as soon as possible to kind of get a crash course on the offense and learn as much as possible before training camp starts because I'm definitely behind," Couch said in a conference calls with Wisconsin reporters.

Couch will have a tutor in Packers quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell.

If Brett Favre's history of good health continues, this could be a hurry-up-and-wait scenario for Couch, who doesn't figure to see the playing field during the regular season if Favre stays healthy. That's OK, though, said Couch, who was the No. 1 overall pick of the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999. He played in the first 15 games of his rookie season.

"When I first came into the league, I was a 21-year-old kid, and I got kind of thrown right into the fire, which was a good thing (because) I wanted to be in there," said Couch. "But, I never had that chance to kind of step back and learn the game and look at it from a different perspective.

"This will give me that chance where I can come and learn the game, be on a good football team and not have the pressure to go out and carry a franchise on my back. Just sit back and watch a Hall of Famer do it and learn. I think it's really going to make me a better football player."

Couch reportedly signed a one-year deal with a salary of $625,000 and a signing bonus of the same amount. With incentives he could make $4 million. Much of that incentive money, however, will be paid only if Couch takes 50 percent of the offensive snaps.

With Couch in town for one season, now the question is will he be a Packer in 2005 and beyond. Couch didn't rule it out, but much of that depends on Favre's future.

"That definitely factors in," Couch said. "But I really do hope that it turns out to be more than a one-year thing because I think it's going to be a really good fit. I feel very comfortable with the coaching staff there and the offense that we'll be running. So I think it's going to be a good fit, and hopefully it all works out."

For now, Hatley's not concerned with the future. He's just happy he's got his man.

"Well, you get a talented young quarterback, whether you have him for a year or whether you have him for five years," Hatley said. "He's in your camp, he comes in and competes with Doug (Pederson) and Craig (Nall) and Scott (McBrien), and we'll go from there with it. I think getting him here and seeing what he can do and how he fits into this offense, whether it's for one year or five years I think it's a plus for us."

Couch's statistics hardly predict he'll be the man to replace Favre and keep the Packers' machine humming. Piloting an expansion team, however, means being surrounded with expansion-caliber players.

His best year came in 2002, when he led the Browns to the playoffs. He threw a career-high 18 touchdowns that season but broke his leg in the season finale. Backup Kelly Holcomb led the Browns to 33 points in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

The rest, as they say is, history. Or in Couch's case, he was history. Holcomb won the starting job during training camp, and Couch was unable to keep it when thrown back in the lineup for a pair of five-game stretches during the regular season.

"That was a weird situation," Couch said of losing his job in training camp. "I'm not sure what happened. We went on a winning streak and won seven out of our last 10 games and made the playoffs.

"I broke my leg in the game we won to get into the playoffs and then the backup came in and had a big day in the playoff game. So I come back the next year thinking I'm still the starter and ready to go for a new year and we end up doing that quarterback competition or whatever we had in training camp."

All of that is behind him now, and Couch says he's excited to be a Packers for this season, and maybe beyond.

"Right now, I'm totally set on being in Green Bay for a while. Hopefully, I can be there for many years."

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