BROWNS Kelly Holcomb is best as backup QB?
The quarterback could be an attractive free agent following the 2004 season.
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Kelly Holcomb is settling back into a familiar role -- backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
He's much more relaxed than last season, when he beat out Tim Couch for the starting job and then struggled as Cleveland limped to a 5-11 record.
"It's frustrating because when you finally get your opportunity, you certainly don't envision it that way," the 31-year-old Holcomb said. "Everything you do at practice, reporters are watching and critiquing every throw. It stays in the back of your mind."
Holcomb vaulted into contention for the starting job with a stellar performance in the 2002 playoffs, when he threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns in place of the injured Couch in a 36-33 loss to Pittsburgh.
He came to training camp the following year with the chance to unseat Couch, and did so two weeks before the start of the regular season.
But the momentum Holcomb had built ran out quickly.
The Browns began last season 0-2, while their new starting quarterback threw four interceptions and only one touchdown.
Cleveland defeated San Francisco in Week 3 on Holcomb's late scoring pass to receiver Andre Davis, but it was discovered after the game that the QB had fractured his right fibula.
He would start just five games the rest of the season, throwing for 1,797 yards with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Couch started the final three games in Holcomb's place.
"It's a different thing when you've never really started," said Holcomb, who had started just one game in six seasons before coming to Cleveland. "When things aren't going so well, you tend to put too much pressure on yourself."
But now Holcomb can relax.
To the rescue
The Browns signed veteran Jeff Garcia to a four-year, $25 million deal in March, allowing Holcomb to resume a job he's always done well.
"If Kelly comes in, that means something happened to Garcia, and that's when I think Kelly's at his best," receiver Quincy Morgan said. "I think he's the man when he has to come and fill in."
Holcomb is still held in high regard by his coaches and teammates.
"Anytime you get the chance to be the starter is an endorsement that the team and coaches believe in you," Browns coach Butch Davis said.
Holcomb is in the final year of his contract, and with teams always looking for quarterback depth, he could be an attractive free agent following the 2004 season.
But right now he's focused on supporting Garcia.
"Everything will take care of itself," he said. "I can't worry about next year. Everything is in the here and now."