Holcomb out 4 months after shoulder surgery

Updated: February 18, 2004, 12:05 AM ET
Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Kelly Holcomb had surgery on his right shoulder last week, an unexpected twist in the team's ongoing soap opera at the position.

Holcomb, who split time with Tim Couch as Cleveland's starter last season, had a torn labrum repaired and will not be able to throw a football for at least four months, team president Carmen Policy said Tuesday.

 Tim Couch

 Kelly Holcomb

The Browns are hoping Holcomb will be ready for training camp in July, but his uncertain future has complicated the Browns' biggest offseason issue: restructuring Couch's contract.

Policy met with Couch last weekend in Florida and had "candid but not confrontational" discussions about reworking the former No. 1 draft pick's contract.

Couch, who lost his starting job to Holcomb last summer but got it back when Holcomb got hurt and then struggled, is scheduled to make $7.6 million this season. The Browns have said they will only bring Couch back if he's willing to restructure his deal.

Before his meeting with Couch, Policy was optimistic the sides would reach an agreement and the five-year veteran would return. Policy remains confident things will be worked out.

"Based upon what I'm hearing behind closed doors and based upon my conversation with Tim, I'm going to stand by my suggestion that there is a very strong possibility that Tim will be back," Policy said.

Coach Butch Davis, however, intimated that there may be more than money keeping Couch from coming back for a sixth season in Cleveland. Davis was noncommittal when asked if he expected Couch to be his starting quarterback in 2004.

"I think I'd have to hedge my bets and say let's see exactly what Tim's going to do," Davis said. "As soon as he makes that commitment as to what he wants to do, the next commitment is that he and I have to sit down and talk.

"There are some issues we need to talk about. I don't think they are going to be insurmountable issues. Whatever issues have gone under the bridge over the last year, those have got to be resolved."

The Browns want to have Couch's situation resolved before free agency begins March 3.

Holcomb's injury would appear to give Couch more leverage in contract talks. If Couch doesn't agree to have his salary cut, the Browns would be forced to trade him, sign a free agent QB or draft one.

Policy denied that the Browns were interested in restructuring Couch's deal solely to trade him.

Holcomb had been bothered by soreness in the shoulder for some time, Policy said, but the 30-year-old decided to have the operation recently when the pain became intolerable.

"I think it was the smart thing to do," Policy said. "It cleaned things up, it corrected things and it will put him in a better position to get back out there."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press