Four months of rehab on tap for free agent QB

2/2/2005 - Tim Couch

Free agent quarterback Tim Couch faces a rehabilitation period of about four months following surgery to repair his damaged right shoulder, ESPN.com learned Wednesday.

Couch, the first overall pick in the 1999 draft, still hopes to be sufficiently recovered in time to audition for potential suitors before the start of training camps.

The procedure, performed by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., revealed that Couch had a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum, each of which is regarded as a substantial shoulder injury.

Andrews suggested the surgery when Couch recently complained of persistent pain in his shoulder and also just above his right elbow after less than a week of throwing drills.

ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Couch had undergone surgery, but results were not available until Wednesday. Agent Tom Condon of IMG Football confirmed the rotator cuff and labrum tears shortly after discussing with Andrews the prognosis and treatment plan for his client.

Couch has also battled through tendinitis in his right elbow for the last several years.

"There's at least a sense of relief now for Tim, because he knows exactly what it was, and what he needs to do now to get healthy again," Condon said. "For a while there, it was a mystery, really puzzling. We had to get to the bottom of it. I guess you could say Tim is happy that the problem is solved. His goal now is to work hard to be ready to work out for teams before camp."

After resting his arm for several months, Couch recently began throwing again at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla. But persistent pain forced him to stop his workouts after less than a week and led to an examination by Andrews, who recommended surgery.

Couch, 27, reiterated several times in recent months his intentions to return to the NFL in 2005. Given his experience and pedigree, there figures to be a market for his services if he is healthy, at least as a veteran backup.

The former University of Kentucky player was released by the Cleveland Browns last June after five seasons with the team. At the time, Couch had two seasons remaining on his contract but, despite that connection, then-Cleveland coach Butch Davis refused to allow the quarterback to work out at team headquarters in the offseason. The apparent rationale was that if Couch was injured it would diminish his trade value and the franchise might be liable for the remainder of his contract.

After his divorce from the Browns, who made him the first player chosen in the team's reincarnation as an expansion franchise, Couch signed with Green Bay. But because of arm problems, he missed considerable time in camp, played poorly in his one preseason appearance, and was subsequently released.

Green Bay officials have contended they knew nothing of Couch's arm problem. The quarterback filed an injury grievance against the club that has yet to be resolved.

At midseason, the Chicago Bears auditioned Couch, but his arm became sore after the first session of what was scheduled as a two-day workout. The Bears did not sign him and the Indianapolis Colts, who were interested in adding Couch as a veteran backup to Peyton Manning, also lost interest. Andrews then advised Couch to rest his arm and not throw for the balance of the season.

With his experience and relative youth, especially at a position where players often play well into their 30s, it is probably premature to completely write Couch off. It remains to be seen, though, how serious a setback his latest shoulder woes represent.

For his career, Couch has completed 1,025 of 1,714 passes for 11,131 yards, with 64 touchdown passes, 67 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.1. Couch has appeared in 62 games and started in 59 of them.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.