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Maybe not quite yet. Hill, the seventh-round draft

By David CarducciRecord-Courier staff writer Published: November 28, 1999 12:00 AM

Maybe not quite yet.

Hill, the seventh-round draft choice from Arkansas who until this week had spent the entire season on the practice squad, cleared the first hurdle Tuesday when he was signed to the Browns' roster.

"He's on the 53-man roster, now the next step is for him to get on the (45-man active roster) on gameday," said Browns coach Chris Palmer.

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That may not be today, when the Browns host the Tennessee Titans.

"We are trying to get him into a game," said Palmer. "Whether we can do that only time will tell based on injuries we have. We want to get him a chance to show what he can do, but I don't know if that will be this week."

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Hill's best chance to make an early impact could be as a kick returner.

Palmer said veteran running back Terry Kirby was in for "a lot of plays last week." If the Browns are going to give Kirby more offensive plays, Palmer may want to spell him.

With Karim Abdul-Jabbar ineffective last week against Carolina, especially on pass protection, the Browns turned to Kirby as an every-down back in the second half, in addition to his duties as a return man.

Hill was impressive at times during the preseason, but his three fumbles _ including two in the preseason finale at Philadelphia _ led the Browns to cut the rookie at the end of training camp.

"I knew those fumbles would have repercussions," said Hill. "I didn't think I would get cut, though. That was hard. It hurt."

Hill received calls from the San Francisco 49ers, the New York Jets and other teams who were interested in signing him to a contract, but instead decided to accept an offer to return to the Browns and hone his skills on the practice squad.

"I liked what coach Palmer and the rest of the coaches were doing here," said Hill. "I wanted to be a part of that."

Hill toiled on the practice squad and waited through the first 11 games while other players on the practice squad were called up to the regular roster.

"I got passed over so many times, I started to wonder if I'd ever get a shot," said Hill. "When I finally got the call, I couldn't react. I was on the phone, and my wife kept asking me, 'did you get called up? Did you get called up?' I couldn't say anything. When I told her I did, she screamed."

Hill took some reps with the first team during the Browns' practice Wednesday in Berea.

FREAK vs. ZEUS ... The big matchup today is Titans rookie defensive end Jevon "The Freak" Kearse vs. Browns right tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown.

Kearse had the breakout game of his rookie year when he last faced Zeus in the season's second week, beating the Browns lineman for three sacks in the Titans' 26-9 victory.

"He causes problems for everyone," said Palmer. "Kearse is an excellent player and he's going to cause a lot of people problems in this league. Any time you have a guy who comes out and runs a 4.48 (40-yard dash), he will create a problem."

That incredible speed matched with his imposing 6-foot-4, 265-pound frame are the reason Kearse earned the name "Freak" at the University of Florida.

According to Fisher that mix of speed, size and talent make Kearse capable of playing any position on the football field, with the exception of tackle and cornerback.

"You shouldn't be able to run that fast when you're that big," Couch said of Kearse. "We have to be aware of where he's at and where he's blitzing from. We have to just try to keep him off balance and slow him down as much as possible."

While Kearse seems to have earned the respect of Couch, Orlando Brown seemed less impressed.

Brown claimed two of the three sacks he surrendered to Kearse were a result of good coverage downfield by the Titans' defensive backs. On the third Brown admitted "he got me," but defended being beaten by Kearse to the fact that he got a late start due to crowd noise at Nashville's Adelphia Coliseum.

"That won't happen this time, because we are in my house," said Brown.

Kearse is preparing to prove to Brown that those three sacks were no fluke.

"Basically, (Brown) didn't give me any respect in that first game," said Kearse, who leads the Titans with 7 1/2 sacks this season. "He said they had a silent count and he didn't hear the calls. And the other ones weren't his fault."

ANGRY TITANS ... The Titans still resent an exuberant spike Tim Couch made in front of Tennessee fans after throwing his first career touchdown pass, a 39-yarder to fellow rookie Kevin Johnson in the third quarter in the season's second week.

After throwing the touchdown Couch raced to the end zone, caught a return pass from Johnson then spiked the ball, sending it high into the stands.

"That was a big point in our meetings," said Kearse. "It was kind of disrespectful to our fans and us."

According to Couch, the spike simply came out of emotion of throwing his first touchdown pass in his first professional start.

"It was my first touchdown in the pros," said Couch. "I was caught up in the moment. I have respect for their team."

All the same, the Titans are using Couch's spike as motivation this week.

INJURY UPDATES ... Rookie wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini, who had his best game last week (8 catches, first career touchdown reception), is bothered by a nagging toe injury.

Chiaverini has had ongoing problems with the toe, which he re-injured early in last week's loss to Carolina.

According to Palmer, the pain in Chiaverini's toe is caused by one of the spikes on his shoe that's pressuring the bottom of his foot. Trainers will insert a plate in his shoe to relieve that pressure.

Defensive tackle Darius Holland should be ready to play despite missing practice Thursday, when his sprained knee acted up. Holland practiced Friday and reported no problems.

The Browns are once again without veteran wide receiver Leslie Shepherd, who still is unable to run due to his injured calf muscle.

Left tackle Lomas Brown continues to recover from his sprained knee. He is still at least a few weeks away from returning to the lineup.

Defensive lineman Arnold Miller will also miss today's game with a knee injury.

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