Holcomb Hopes to Play
Kelly Holcomb #10 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Cincinnati Bengals on November 28, 2004 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Posted Dec 30, 2004

Browns QB inspired by a young man fighting against the odds...


Kelly Holcomb could enter free agency with a 413-yard passing performance as the last experience on his resume.

With three cracked ribs, few would question the Browns quarterback for begging out of Sunday's season finale against Houston, a game significant only for draft positioning. A loss would clinch the No. 2 pick for Cleveland.

But Holcomb wants to play, partly because of his competitive nature and partly because he doesn't want to let down a young fan. Alex Sizemore, 14, of Kinsman, Ohio, has leukemia. He is battling his third recurrence of the disease, and his mother said he has only a 10 percent chance of survival.

Holcomb is Alex's favorite player, and the two posed for a picture before the San Diego game two weeks ago. On Wednesday, Alex wore Holcomb's No. 10 jersey when he was guest at Cleveland's practice. Alex was in the middle of the Browns huddle when they met as a team to break practice. Browns players signed a helmet for him.

"It really shows you how insignificant professional sports is and how significant life is," Holcomb said. "I look at his mom, and I could not imagine what she's going through. I have kids of my own. I know you're tested in life, but I just couldn't imagine.

"It does give you inspiration. We're playing a game here. He's playing the game of life. When it comes down to it, this game is pretty insignificant."

Sunday's game certainly is. Neither team is in playoff contention. The Browns are trying to end a nine-game losing streak, which is tied for the most the franchise has had in a single season.

Four of those losses have come since Terry Robiskie replaced Butch Davis as head coach. Holcomb was hurt while throwing for 413 yards against Cincinnati in Davis' last game. With Jeff Garcia out for the season, Robiskie has been forced to start mistake-prone rookie Luke McCown.

Rather than give McCown another shot, Robiskie seems intent on giving the ball to Holcomb.

Holcomb took practice reps with the starters Wednesday for the first time since his injury.

"I feel I'm pretty much ready," Holcomb said. "I feel I can play, but it's not my call."

Holcomb dismissed any stay-healthy-for-free-agency talk.

"I'm not worried about that," Holcomb said. "I'm worrying about trying to help this team win a game. Let's be honest about it, with free agency, with a new coach coming in or if Terry stays here, Sunday is the last time this group will be together."

If anyone wants to see Holcomb play more than he does, it might be Sizemore.

Said Robiskie, "If Alex can get him to play, I'll take Alex to Houston."

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