Running back Stephen Davis's return to the practice field yesterday did not go as smoothly as the Washington Redskins had hoped. Redskins officials were discouraged after watching the NFC rushing leader test his sprained left ankle and were uncertain whether Davis will be able to play in Saturday's first-round playoff game against the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field, team sources said.

Davis indicated after participating in a portion of yesterday's practice at Redskin Park that he intends to play Saturday, but said he is uncertain how effective he would be.

Two Redskins defensive starters, cornerback Darrell Green and end Anthony Cook, were sick yesterday and were sent home by team officials before practice. Green has bronchitis and was placed on antibiotics, according to trainer Bubba Tyer, and Cook had a stomach virus. Redskins officials said they expect both players to be ready for Saturday's game.

The Redskins hope to increase Davis's activity during practice today after seeing how sore and swollen his ankle is following yesterday's workout. Davis, who missed the Redskins' final 2 1/2 games of the regular season, participated in about one-third of yesterday's practice, Tyer said. It was Davis's first practice since he hurt his ankle late in the first half of the Redskins' loss at Indianapolis on Dec. 19.

Said Davis, who set a single-season team record with his 1,405 rushing yards: "It went pretty good. It was sore, but I did fine. I did everything I could do [yesterday]. I'll do more" today.

Asked how effective he thinks he would be Saturday, Davis said: "It's hard for me to say right now. I really won't know until Saturday. Hopefully I'll play up to 100 percent, but we'll have to see."

Said Coach Norv Turner: "We'll see where he is [today]. . . . I don't think he completely let it loose [but] he was running fast enough to say he's going to be all right. . . . I hope Stephen is ready to go and can take a full load."

Tyer said Davis did "fair" yesterday, and added, "Hopefully each day he'll be able to do a little more."

According to sources, club officials were fearful last night that Davis will be sidelined again or play a limited role Saturday. That would be a severe blow to the Redskins in their first playoff game in seven years.

Skip Hicks started the final two regular season games in Davis's place and totaled only 101 rushing yards.

Davis's teammates eagerly are awaiting his return.

"With the confidence we have in Stephen, I think it'll be a great lift for us," said tackle Jon Jansen, one of the many players wearing "Believe in Stephen" T-shirts in the locker room.

Tyer said he expects Green to be fine by Friday. Turner said: "I think it's a couple-day thing. Hopefully that's all it is."

Pro Bowl guard Tre Johnson, who suffered a bruised left thigh during Sunday's regular season finale, sat out part of yesterday's practice but is scheduled to start Saturday.

Linebacker Greg Jones, who was sidelined Sunday after suffering back spasms, also was held out of portions of yesterday's practice. Wide receiver Albert Connell practiced after being on the inactive list Sunday because of an ailing left shoulder, and rookie cornerback Champ Bailey practiced with a splint on his sprained thumb.

Reserve defensive back Darryl Pounds missed practice because of a sore back, but backup safety Matt Stevens practiced after being sidelined Sunday by a shoulder injury.