Kentucky rivals pass in the night

Redman, Couch to renew competition on NFL stage

October 03, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Although Chris Redman and Tim Couch have yet to find time to go fishing together, it has been impossible for these homegrown Kentucky quarterbacks to avoid one another on the football field.

Whether it's a game of two-hand touch or the NFL's Sunday night showcase, Redman and Couch have competed against each other in high school, college and now the pros. Redman can't predict how this longstanding rivalry with Couch will end, but the Ravens quarterback remembers how it began with his Cleveland Browns counterpart.

At the 1995 high school seven-on-seven championships in Louisville, Ky., Redman got the upper hand on Couch, rallying his team to victory in a meeting where his first impression of Couch outlasted the final score.

"I remember saying, `Who's that slow white guy playing defensive back?' " Redman said of Couch, a two-way player in those days. "But Tim's a great guy. It's fun to have that rivalry still going."

When the Ravens face the Browns for the AFC North lead Sunday night in Cleveland, their starting quarterbacks will be playing for Bluegrass pride. Leaders of teams sharing a bitter history, Redman and Couch continue a cordial - yet competitive - backyard feud.

When Redman set the state high school record for passing yards, Couch broke the mark three hours later on the same field. Going head-to-head in college, Couch stayed on top as Kentucky beat Redman-led Louisville twice.

Now, with two divisional meetings a year, Redman can try to settle the score.

"With Chris being the Ravens' quarterback, I think the rivalry can grow into something real special," Couch said.

The similarities between Redman and Couch extend beyond the football field.

They both like to relax by hunting and fishing. They spurned big-time Division I offers to stay at home and play college football at basketball schools. And they feel more comfortable commanding the huddle than the media spotlight.

"They're a lot alike," said Chris' father, Bob Redman. "That's been a friendly rivalry all the way through. There's no bad blood."

The last time they ran into each other was in May at the state's unofficial reunion - the Kentucky Derby - and the conversation was more about their families than their NFL careers.

"There's definitely a bond there," Redman said.

The biggest difference is their hometowns, and Redman is happy to point out the distinction. Redman grew up in Louisville, while Couch is from Hyden, a coal and timber town in the Cumberland Mountains.

"Compared to Tim Couch," Redman said, "I'm a New Yorker."

Redman and Couch also can compare notes about playing on the hot seat.

As a first-year starter, Redman is enjoying the first week in which he isn't being asked about a potential quarterback controversy. He had his most confident showing in the Ravens' Monday night upset of the Denver Broncos, but coaches remain committed to bringing him along slowly.

They still need to prep Redman on everything to expect and to go over his responsibilities step by step.

"It's a little premature to put him in the category of, `Well, he's a guy who can make a play if nothing is there.' That's not where he is at yet," said Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. "He needs a lot of structure. Right now, it's just keep the reins on him."

The top pick of the 1999 NFL draft, Couch has come under similar fire.

He is in the Peyton Manning mold, armed with a quick release and a streaky history. In his fourth season, he has thrown for 42 touchdowns and 46 interceptions with marginal talent around him most years.

Sitting out the first two games with a bruised forearm, Couch watched backup Kelly Holcomb throw for 524 yards and five touchdowns. That stirred up a debate among Browns fans over whether Couch should retain his starting job.

"It wasn't hard at all," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "There was no doubt that Tim Couch was the starting quarterback."

On Sunday night, a rivalry will be rekindled, appropriately, on the Kentucky Bluegrass field of Cleveland Browns Stadium. From a high school summer league to a national prime-time event, Redman and Couch will meet on a new level with old bragging rights on the line.

"It's a friendly rivalry," Redman said. "I'm sure one of these days we're going to sit back and fish and hunt. But deep down, we both want to win bad."

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Cleveland Browns

Site:Cleveland Browns Stadium

When:Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13, ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Browns by 7 1/2

On SunSpot:For more Ravens coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens

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