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QB wants to stay, would restructure contract

BEREA, Ohio -- Tim Couch is back where he started, and he doesn't want to leave.

Cleveland's beleaguered quarterback was given back his starting
job for at least one week. Couch now says he's willing to take a
pay cut to keep it.

Couch, who has been jerked in and out of the starting lineup
this season, will start Sunday's game at Denver and expects to be
Cleveland's No. 1 QB for the final three games.

As for next season, Couch said for the first time Wednesday that
he would restructure his contract to remain with the Browns.

"I'm open to anything," Couch said. "I want to be here. I've
kind of started this thing and I want to be part of it when we make
the transition to being an elite football team. I think I can help
us get to that point.

"I'm sure at the end of the year we'll have to sit down and
talk. If it takes restructuring and doing whatever it takes, I'll
be willing to work with them. We'll see if they even want me here,
and if they do, we'll see how we can make it happen."

The Browns were expected to release Couch following the season.
He is scheduled to make $7.6 million in 2004 and $8 million in '05.
Team president Carmen Policy has said Couch's future with the
Browns would depend on him restructuring his deal.

Couch's strange season came full circle Wednesday when Browns
coach Butch Davis, who benched the QB in favor of Kelly Holcomb
before the season, said Couch would open against the Broncos.

"It was time to give Tim a second shot," Davis said.

Davis said the latest switch, his seventh at the quarterback
since Week 1, does not necessarily mean Couch would start the
final three games.

Holcomb, though, isn't expecting to get another shot.

"This hasn't been what I dreamed about," said Holcomb, a
backup for seven seasons. "But it's reality. I haven't lost my
confidence. I know I can play this game."

Couch has relieved Holcomb the past two weeks. He came in late
in the first half on Monday night against St. Louis after Holcomb
threw two interceptions. Couch rallied the Browns with a pair of
second-half scoring drives and threw a 28-yard TD pass to Quincy Morgan in Cleveland's 26-20 loss.

Davis was impressed by Couch's outing. He'd like to see another
one just like it.

"We're trying to find someone who will deliver some
consistency," said Davis. "We need somebody to play well and
somebody to emerge."

Meanwhile, the banged-up Browns added five
players to the active roster after losing four starters this week to season-ending injuries.

Among the additions is kicker Brett Conway, who was released
three weeks ago by the New York Giants.

The four starters -- defensive end Courtney Brown (biceps),
running back James Jackson (knee), kicker Phil Dawson (arm) and
guard Chad Beasley (ankle) -- were placed on injured reserve. Each
was hurt during Monday night's loss to St. Louis. The Browns have
lost 12 players for the season with injuries.

The club also signed defensive lineman Felipe Claybrooks and
defensive back Ron Israel from the practice squad, as well as free
agent running backs Nick Maddox and fullback Josh Mallard.

Derrick Frost and defensive end Corey Jackson were added to the practice squad.

The Browns (4-9) haven't had a quarterback controversy this
season. The revolving door has been a fiasco for the team, which
has lost six of seven and must face the Broncos, Baltimore and
Cincinnati down the stretch.

Couch said Cleveland's endless quarterback derby has taken a
toll on the team.

"I don't think it's been good for it," he said. "At that
position you've got to have a leader, you've got to have a guy that
everyone believes in and rallies around. To shuffle guys in and out
has been a tough situation for me, for Kelly and the rest of the
team."

A fresh start elsewhere could do wonders for Couch, who besides
being bypassed by Davis has endured the wrath of Browns fans during
his time in Cleveland.

If released, the 26-year-old would likely be the top quarterback
on the free-agent market. Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer was in a
similar spot last winter and left Arizona to sign a seven-year, $40
million deal with Denver.

"For me, I knew I needed to get out of Arizona, and it was time
for a new start," Plummer said in a conference call.

Couch understands the risks of starting over with a new team,
which is why he wants to stay.

"Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side,"
he said. "Maybe it would be, maybe it wouldn't be. I know we have
a good nucleus of guys here I like playing with, I like these
receivers. I feel comfortable with the coaching staff. I'm just
going to go with the flow. If they want me here, I want to be here.
If not, I'll go elsewhere."