Browns hit bye at perfect time

Updated: October 28, 2003, 8:43 AM ET
ESPN

BEREA, Ohio -- Ah, the bye week. A time for the Cleveland Browns to finally kick back and get some much-needed R&R.

Rehab and Recovery, that is.

"We need a break," said linebacker Andra Davis, referring to some time off, not another injury.

The Browns (3-5) certainly don't need any more medical setbacks.

Cleveland has had more than its share of sprains, strains and separations over the first half of a season that began with coach Butch Davis having to pick between Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb as starting quarterback.

On Monday, Davis said neither quarterback would be an option if the Browns had a game scheduled this week.

"Both of them are hurt. If we played tomorrow, Nate's the quarterback," Davis said, referring to Nate Hybl, the Browns' rookie No. 3 QB.

Couch sprained his right thumb while throwing a pass in the first quarter of Sunday's 9-3 loss at New England and was replaced for the second straight week by Holcomb, who hasn't started since Week 3 when he broke his right fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle.

Davis said Couch's thumb was swollen Monday, and there was some concern because he's injured it twice before.

Couch had an operation on his thumb after slamming it onto a teammates' helmet in a 2000 practice, and he had a screw inserted in it when he got hurt while in high school.

Couch was not available for comment, but a team spokesman said he did not undergo an MRI.

Holcomb, who went 15-of-25 for 115 yards in relief of Couch, wasn't around while the locker room was open for reporters, either. On Sunday, Holcomb said his injuries were improving, and that he was satisfied to have survived an afternoon against the blitzing Patriots behind a patchwork offensive line.

But Holcomb's not 100 percent, and may not be again this season, a fact that could make it tough when the Browns return next week against unbeaten Kansas City.

Davis, who started the season with two able-bodied quarterbacks, suddenly has none. And if the Browns are going to turn their season around as they did a year ago, Davis needs count on one of them.

"We want to get one guy to go in and lead this team, and to play," he said. "There's no question that any football team, especially us, is better when somebody is out there playing all the time, whether it's quarterback or offensive line or running backs. We've played offense by committee long enough."

On Sunday, the Browns played without seven projected starters from the preseason. Because of injuries, they faced New England using four backup offensive linemen and were without running back William Green (separated shoulder).

Still, the Browns had a chance to win until Holcomb threw an interception in the final minute.

Davis has spent the past few weeks trying to keep his players' spirits up, but acknowledged that it's getting tougher.

"Our football team is a little bit battered," he said. "They're frustrated. They want to play better. There's opportunities to make plays, we're just not in sync."

Partly because of the injuries and an ever-changing starting lineup, the Browns haven't made as many big plays as they did while going 9-7 and making the playoffs in 2002.

Through eight games last season, the Browns had 41 offensive plays of 20 yards or more. This season, they've produced only 15. On defense, Cleveland isn't creating turnovers the way it did in Davis' first two seasons.

Those are two areas Davis will address this week, but neither is top priority.

"I want to get guys well," he said. "That's all I'm concerned about right now."

Following practice Wednesday, the Browns will have four days off to get away from football. Most plan to leave town.

Davis is making a short trip.

"To my office," Davis said. "Got to figure out how to win a game."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index