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Browns Win! Browns Wins!

Chris Spielman's comeback may have ended the same night the Cleveland Browns pulled off their first comeback at home.

Rookie quarterback Tim Couch watched Ty Detmer from the sideline in the first half then rallied the Browns to their first victory in their new stadium Saturday night, a 35-24 exhibition win over the Chicago Bears.

But Cleveland's victory was tempered by concern for Spielman, the Browns' middle linebacker who sustained a neck injury in the first quarter and never returned to the field.

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  • "Everyone in this room has got concern for Chris," Browns defensive tackle Jerry Ball said. "And the thing is there isn't anything any of us can do but pray that everything is OK. When you have a history of something like that, it can be pretty damn scary."

    Spielman, who underwent neck fusion surgery in 1997, sustained a neck "stinger" in the first quarter after absorbing a violent collision with Bears center Casey Wiegmann.

    He never returned to the field and was taken to a hospital for an MRI.

    "I'm very concerned right now," Browns coach Chris Palmer said. "Very concerned. All I know right now is that he's at the hospital."

    When asked what he might say to Spielman, Palmer said: "He and I will have a long talk in the morning."

    Palmer stopped short of saying he would recommend to Spielman that the four-time Pro Bowl selection and Ohio football icon should retire. But it was clear from Palmer's tone and mannerisms he would talk to Spielman about his football future in their next conversation.

    "I can't say anything until I talk to Chris Spielman," Palmer said.

    After taking the hit, Spielman was helped to his feet and walked wobbly to the sideline where he was worked on for several minutes before being escorted to the locker room.

    As he left the field, Spielman tossed his gloves and arm pads into the stands. He refused to get on a stretcher to go the hospital.

    In 1997, Spielman missed the final eight games of the season with the Buffalo Bills after a neck injury, which worsened over the course of several seasons, required surgery to fuse two vertebrae.

    Spielman sat out all of last season with Buffalo to be with his wife, Stefanie, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

    The 33-year-old linebacker was signed by the Browns in February, and immediately became the expansion team's star player because of his local roots as a high school star at Massillon and an All-America at Ohio State.

    Spielman's neck had already undergone a severe test during training camp when he had a violent collision with fullback Tarek Saleh. Spielman awoke the next morning with a stiff neck and went for an MRI which actually indicated his neck had gotten stronger since the surgery.

    Wiegmann was unaware of Spielman's injury, but knew caught the linebacker at full impact.

    "It was a screen play and he slipped off the guard," Wiegmann said. "I was waiting and caught him at the right time. He was turning and I was going full speed. I thought I hit him pretty good. But when I went to help him up, I found out he couldn't get up."

    Couch, using mostly short passes to move the yard markers, led Cleveland to 13 straight points in the second half. Showing why the expansion Browns (2-2) made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, Couch looked polished in finishing 10-of-14 for 128 yards.

    Detmer, expected to start this season while serving as Couch's mentor, threw two TD passes and ran for a score in the first half as Cleveland's first-string offense showed big-play potential for the first time. The Browns combined for just 40 points in their first three exhibition games.

    Detmer finished 10-of-15 for 154 yards with two interceptions.

    "Both threw very effectively," Palmer said. "I was very comfortable with the offense performed."

    The Bears (2-2), whose starting quarterback situation is less certain, led 24-19 at halftime.

    D'Wayne Bates returned a kickoff 86 yards and Chicago took a 10-7 lead with 58 seconds remaining in the first quarter on Ryan Gowins' 29-yard field goal. Like Bates, Gowins is a former Northwestern player.

    Bears rookie quarterback Cade McNown was just 4-for-10 for 42 yards after replacing starter A href="">Shane Matthews in the second quarter. Matthews, likely to be the Bears' backup to McNown, played just the first quarter and went 11-of-13 for 66 yards.

    "The decision still has to be made in the near future," Bears coach Dick Jauron said of his mini quarterback controversy. "I thought Shane played well and Cade played well. Cade made some excellent throws and he's very mobile."

    After setting up two field goals to give the Browns a 25-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, Couch hit Saleh over the middle with a short pass and Saleh broke three tackles on his way to the end zone for a 27-yard scoring play with 5:15 left.

    "I felt pretty comfortable tonight," Couch said. "This was the first week we actually game planned. I think that really helped the offense a lot."

    Chris Boniol, signed last week after being cut by Philadelphia, kicked two field goals for the Browns.

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