The Washington Redskins brought back cornerback Wayne Davis yesterday to shore up an increasingly vulnerable secondary. Davis was able to return because the team put safety Clarence Vaughn on injured reserve.

Surgery is a possibility for Vaughn, who partially tore the cruciate ligament in his right knee in practice Thursday. But trainer Bubba Tyer said the team would try to rehabilitate the knee without surgery. Vaughn was fitted with a splint and was walking with crutches yesterday.

"We're going to wait a few days and see how it goes," Tyer said.

With cornerback Alvoid Mays (right knee) limping as well, Washington had only six healthy players in its secondary. When Davis is activated, he will be the fourth cornerback in Washington's dime (six-man) coverages against Dallas Sunday. The Redskins will play with Brad Edwards as the only backup to both Alvin Walton and Todd Bowles at safety.

Davis worked out with New England Tuesday. The Raiders and Cincinnati, among others, expressed interest through his agent, Bruce Allen, but both were waiting to use him as insurance after someone else was injured, Davis said.

"They know that I can come in on Saturday and play on Sunday," Davis said. "I really didn't worry about it {after being cut} because I thought I had a good preseason and I showed enough for teams to be interested in me. I knew it was just a matter of time, because I was coming pretty close to signing" with the Patriots.

Davis, acquired at midseason last year from Buffalo, was in the last group of preseason cuts, along with Vaughn and Mays. But Vaughn and Mays were quickly re-signed after clearing waivers.

Davis continued to work out near his Cincinnati home. The Redskins got in touch with him in Springfield, Mass., where Davis was visiting his father. He said he was not worried about finding work.

"A cornerback spot is hard to fill, for one," Davis said. "A lot of teams, when it gets into the year and they need to call on a corner, they want to call on a corner with some experience. And I have plenty of film for any team to watch me, on a lot of different teams, playing a lot of different teams."

Vaughn injured his shoulder late in training camp and was just coming back from that. He had been last on the Redskins' tackle chart with one assisted tackle in the first two games.

Clark Practices

Wide receiver Gary Clark (hamstring) practiced after missing two days, while linebacker Monte Coleman (hamstring) was held out. Mays, who injured his right knee Wednesday, said the leg was better, but he could be a candidate for the two-man inactive list Sunday. Coleman wanted to go full-tilt, Tyer said, but the coaches decided to rest him.

Clark almost certainly will play Sunday; Coleman is "iffy," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "Gary practiced, Monte didn't. I'd say that's where they are right now," Gibbs said.

If Coleman does not start, rookie Andre Collins may have to go the whole way. . . . The Redskins are 29-15 under Gibbs in games following a loss, but six of those 15 losses have come in the last two seasons.