Packers' Couch struggling to keep job as Favre's backup


Pro Football

August 15, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

Tim Couch, the first pick in the 1999 draft, moves closer by the day to being a big-time bust this summer in Green Bay.

Through two weeks of training camp, Couch, 27, has a tenuous grip on the Packers' No. 2 quarterback job - barely ahead of Doug Pederson, 36, and well behind Brett Favre, 34.

Green Bay coaches like Couch's athleticism. It's his arm strength and delivery that have been found wanting. Couch has never thrown the deep ball well, but somewhere during his five seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he developed a hitch in his throwing motion that he didn't have at Kentucky.

The Packers say they won't try to change that delivery just yet.

"If he wants to make the right decision and he's not quite sure yet what the [receiver's] going to do, that's the way he slows down," said quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell. "A lot of guys do that with their feet. For whatever reason, through his upbringing, he slows down his arm to time up and see where the guy's going."

Couch didn't sign with the Packers until June 15, missing their offseason workouts. Still, his wobbly passes are hardly befitting an offense that wants to capitalize on Favre's deep passing game. The Packers need to see evidence that Couch could win in this offense if Favre goes down.

"Eventually, you've got to show something," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "You've got to make plays. Somebody has to give us confidence in him and give his teammates confidence in him. We'll find that out in preseason."

McGahee gears up

In his first action against another team since the Fiesta Bowl in January 2003, Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee showed he still has it.

The former Miami Hurricane rushed seven times for 33 yards in a scrimmage against Cleveland last week. Then in goal-line plays, he scored three straight times from the 2.

McGahee will spell starter Travis Henry (2,794 yards rushing the past two years) in the regular offense and play a lot on third down. More problematic for the Bills is their offensive line, where former seventh-round pick Mike Pucillo starts at left guard and former first-round choice Mike Williams (personal issues) starts at right tackle.

Panthers on the hunt

The sudden retirement of Adam Meadows left the Carolina Panthers without a proven right tackle, compounding a problem in the offensive line.

They also have to replace both starting guards from the Super Bowl, and have shifted right tackle Jordan Gross to left tackle. Only center Jeff Mitchell, a former Raven, returns at the same position he played last year.

For now, Matt Willig, a 35-year-old career backup, is penciled in at right tackle. Willig declined a role in the Herbie The Love Bug movie to play another season in the NFL. His part in the sitcom Quintuplets wound up on the cutting room floor in the offseason.

Clearing the deck

The Cincinnati Bengals held their collective breath last week when linebacker Kevin Hardy slammed Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson to the ground during a pass drill when the play was already over.

Johnson lay facedown on the field for a minute - without any acknowledgment from Hardy - before walking off.

Hardy suggested weakly that the two just got tangled up, but the normally talkative Johnson was in a funk for two days after the cheap shot.

Rough and rowdy

Pro wrestler-turned-defensive tackle Brock Lesnar needs to learn football etiquette.

The Minnesota Vikings rookie incited the first of several brawls in joint practices with the Kansas City Chiefs when he ignored the no-contact rule and knocked quarterback Damon Huard out of the workout.

"That's just me and I don't care what the Chiefs think about it," Lesnar said. "I'm going 110 percent. I'm not going to dial it down."

Thirty minutes later after making a tackle, Lesnar was run over by Chiefs guard Jonathan Ingram, precipitating another fight.


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