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Looking to grab backup QB spot, Couch signs with Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tim Couch's agent sent a memo to all
NFL teams a few weeks ago, letting them know the former No. 1 draft
pick was healthy again and looking for a place to play.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to call and Couch jumped
at the opportunity.

He signed a two-year contract with the Jaguars on Sunday,
getting a chance to revive his career as a backup to quarterback
Byron Leftwich.

Couch, the top pick by Cleveland in 1999, hasn't played a down
in the NFL since the 2004 preseason.

"Right now, I'm just trying to be a guy, fit in, learn the
offense and just try to make the football team -- nothing more than
that," Couch said following his first practice Sunday night.

The contract, which did not include a signing bonus, will pay
Couch the veteran minimum of $595,000 this season if he makes the
team. He would earn slightly more in 2008.

Couch could end up supplanting Quinn Gray as the team's
third-string quarterback -- a move that would save the Jags about
$700,000 this season.

Gray, who has failed to move up the depth chart in four years
playing behind Leftwich and David Garrard, signed a one-year deal
worth $1.3 million in April.

But Gray has a sprained ankle and started training camp on the
physically unable to perform list. Coach Jack Del Rio said he
needed a fourth quarterback during camp. The team also has
undrafted rookie Lester Ricard.

"We plan on throwing the ball in this camp and we're a little
short at that position with Quinn down, so we've added a fourth
quarterback," Del Rio said. "At some point, Quinn will get
healthy and we'll deal with the numbers. At this point, we've added
an experienced quarterback to come in and give us an opportunity to
throw the football like we need to in this camp."

Scott Eyster from Delta State and Sam Hollenbach from Maryland
worked out alongside Couch on Sunday, and the Jaguars struck a deal
with the former Kentucky star after he passed a physical. Couch had
shoulder surgery in 2004 to repair a torn labrum, a torn biceps and
a torn rotator cuff.

He tried to return too soon following that injury, ended up
tearing the rotator cuff again in 2006 and needed a second surgery.

"I have a lot of confidence I can play," Couch said. "I'm
going to throw some balls over people's heads and throw some balls
at people's feet just to get the timing back down and get used to
throwing to these fast receivers again. Once I get back into the
swing of things, I feel confident that I can play the game."

The Jags considered signing Daunte Culpepper following his
release from Miami, but Culpepper reportedly wanted just a one-year
deal.

The team ended up with another member of the heralded 1999
quarterback draft class, which included Couch, Donovan McNabb,
Akili Smith, Culpepper and Cade McNown -- all taken in the top 12
picks.

Couch's five years in Cleveland were filled with disappointment.
He was sacked often, booed regularly and plagued by elbow trouble.

He played in 62 games with the Browns, completing 59.8 percent
of his passes for 11,131 yards with 64 touchdowns and 67
interceptions.

After leaving Cleveland in 2004, Couch signed a one-year deal
with Green Bay to be Brett Favre's backup. The Packers didn't work
out Couch before signing him to a contract that included a $625,000
bonus, and it seemed to backfire.

Couch was bothered by the sore shoulder, struggled to grasp the
West Coast offense and couldn't even unseat third-string
quarterback Craig Nall.

Couch completed 11 of 34 passes for 96 yards with no touchdowns
in three preseason games and was cut just before the season opener.
But he didn't want his career to end that way.

"This is what I do. This is what I love to do," he said.
"Sitting out the last few years, I think I really got the hunger
back to play again. I just didn't like the way my career ended in
Green Bay with the shoulder injury. I just wanted to give myself a
chance to play a few more years and go out on better terms."

Couch worked out for Chicago and Cincinnati in 2005, but neither
team signed him. He worked out for Tennessee, Miami, Pittsburgh and
Houston last year.

"He's got an opportunity like anybody else in camp," Del Rio
said. "His first opportunity is to make the football team. We're
not setting anything out in terms of drama. You guys make it as
dramatic as you like. We've got 86 guys in camp. He's one of 86."