Running back Stephen Davis probably will not practice today when the Washington Redskins begin their preparations in earnest for Saturday's NFC semifinal at Tampa Bay, Coach Norv Turner and trainer Bubba Tyer said yesterday. Davis's sprained left ankle and sprained right knee remained sore yesterday, Turner said, and team officials will determine his practice status on a day-to-day basis.
Turner said it is possible Davis could play against the Buccaneers even if he is unable to practice all week. But after speaking to Davis yesterday, Turner said he was "very concerned" about Davis's availability for the Tampa Bay game.
"We'll just see [this] morning where he's at," Turner said yesterday, a day off for Redskins players except those--including Davis--who visited Redskin Park to receive medical treatment. ". . . Being optimistic and being realistic are two different things. After visiting with him in the trainer's room [yesterday] and talking to him, I know he's got a sore knee and he's got a real sore ankle. I'm very concerned."
After treating Davis several times yesterday, Tyer said he didn't expect the running back to practice today. Tyer said Davis's knee was better but his ankle was swollen and "real sore." The Redskins canceled a scheduled MRI exam of Davis's knee, which Tyer said will heal with rest and won't require offseason surgery.
"I'm just preparing to play," Davis said. "Hopefully I'll be able to go."
Davis surprised his coaches and teammates with his dynamic performance in Saturday's first-round playoff win over the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field before hurting his knee in the second quarter. Davis limped around on his injured ankle for most of last week, and Turner revealed yesterday that he and Davis were concerned about Davis's ability to play against Detroit as late as Thursday evening.
Davis certainly proved his mettle against the Lions. Now the cycle of practice-field tests, trainer's room visits and behind-the-scenes fretting starts over.
"I'm optimistic because I'm always optimistic," Turner said. "But this is tougher this week. It's going to be tougher on him. He strained his knee. The ankle is still very sore. People think, 'Well, he played on it, and he's two days better.' But it takes wear and tear by playing on it also."
Davis, the NFC rushing leader during the regular season, had runs of 58 and 32 yards against the Lions, and totaled 119 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries before spraining the medial collateral ligament in his knee.
"He wanted to play so bad, the adrenaline took over," Turner said. "The trainers did a great job getting him ready. He had 15 carries. We would have seen how long he could have gone. . . . This is a different defense, and you'd like him to have some opportunities to practice [this week], especially late in the week. But obviously staying off that ankle is probably the best thing for him."
Davis's play was most surprising to those at Redskin Park who had seen his practice field performances last week.
"It surprised me a little bit," tight end Stephen Alexander said yesterday. "He didn't do a whole lot in practice last week, which was understandable. He went through some stuff. I figured he'd play, but I didn't know how effective he could be."
After hurting his ankle during the Redskins' loss at Indianapolis on Dec. 19, Davis received treatment from the team's trainers as often as three times per day. Tyer may have been the Redskins' most valuable employee last week, and he could be the most important person at Redskin Park again this week.
"I just rubbed and rubbed on his ankle," Tyer said. "He got a lot of treatment. He did well. We'll do it again this week."
Davis's backup, Skip Hicks, is a far less punishing runner than Davis. But Turner said the Redskins didn't tinker with their game plan last week after Davis's unimpressive practices, and will make only minor changes this week if Davis is unable to play.
"When Skip's in there, we try to get outside more," Turner said. "We pitch him the ball more. But the problem with those plays is, you can get some nice runs out of them but they're higher-risk plays. You get more no-gains out of them. You just don't get the consistency."
The Redskins certainly don't want to go to Tampa and face one of the league's most fearsome defenses with a one-dimensional offense relying only on the passing of quarterback Brad Johnson.
"He's a big part of what we're doing," Alexander said of Davis. "You have to have a balanced offense. But I think Skip is starting to get a feel for what we're doing. We've had a little different running game this year because Stephen likes to get up in there between the tackles. But they're both capable of making big plays."