Browns QB barred from working out with team

Updated: May 21, 2004, 8:52 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Unable to work out with his teammates, despite being under contract for two more seasons, in-limbo Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch has filed a grievance against the team.

Filed through the NFL Players Association, the grievance could take weeks or even months to be heard and Couch, asked by Browns officials not to use the team's complex for conditioning, could be gone from Cleveland by then. But the grievance contends that, since he is still with the club, he should be afforded the same privileges as teammates.

Couch, 26, had intended to function as a member of the Browns, even as the team attempted to trade him, until Cleveland executives recommended that he work out elsewhere. At first, he used a local gym, but now has moved to his offseason home in Fort Lauderdale.

The top overall choice in the 1999 draft, Couch is under contract for this season and next, at base salaries of $7.6 million and $8 million, respectively. After failing to come to an accord on a reworked contract that would have dramatically reduced those salaries and also provided the Browns much-needed cap room, the team signed former San Francisco starter Jeff Garcia to a four-year, $25 million contract.

The Browns also afforded to Couch and agent Tom Condon permission to speak with other teams, to see if they could arrange a trade. The five-year veteran has been pursued by the Green Bay Packers, who are seeking a veteran backup to Brett Favre, but Couch has balked at their offers. In essence, Couch does not want to be stuck on the bench behind the iron man Favre for more than one season.

Sources said the two sides have not spoken at all recently. There are hints the Packers may attempt to force the issue with Couch by making a new offer to him but placing a deadline on the proposal. Couch has visited twice with Packers coach Mike Sherman, and Green Bay officials are said to like the former Kentucky star a lot.

Cleveland coach Butch Davis reiterated this week that he is not simply going to give his former starter away, and again suggested he could retain Couch, even at his lofty salary, as the backup to Garcia. For now, the Browns' salary cap can afford Couch, but keeping a backup at such a steep price is probably impractical.

In 62 appearances, 59 of them starts, Couch has completed 1,025 of 1,714 attempts, for 11,131 yards, with 64 touchdown passes, 67 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.1.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.