Even as Stephen Davis pronounced himself at least 80 percent healthy and the Washington Redskins made plans to get their injured running back on the practice field today, Coach Norv Turner spoke yesterday about Davis having a reduced role in Saturday's NFC semifinal at Tampa Bay.
"If we could get 10 or 15 carries out of him this week, I'd be excited about that," Turner said.
Meanwhile, the Redskins were encouraged by the health of center Cory Raymer, who participated in portions of practice. His status was upgraded from questionable to probable, and Turner said he expects Raymer to practice today and play Saturday. If Raymer can't play, Mark Fischer, who has not started an NFL game, will play.
As for Davis, he rested his sprained left ankle and sprained right knee again yesterday, with Skip Hicks taking most of the work at running back. But trainer Bubba Tyer upgraded Davis's official status for Saturday's game from doubtful to questionable, and Davis said he was "80 or 85 percent" healed.
"The bottom line is, we're trying to win to get to the next level," Davis said. "I think I can help the team. I can only help the team if I'm on the field. Right now I'm not 100 percent. I feel I'm 80 or 85 percent. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling better than Monday or Tuesday."
Davis has not practiced this week, but Turner and Tyer said they expect Davis to do some running and perhaps participate in a few plays today. The Redskins are more concerned about Davis's ankle than his knee. Last week, he had disappointing practices Wednesday and Thursday but ran better Friday. He turned 15 first-half carries during Saturday's first-round playoff triumph over the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field into 119 yards and two touchdowns before hurting his knee.
"I think he's about where he was at this point last week," Turner said.
Turner said he spoke to Tyer about the chances Davis could worsen seriously his injuries by playing. Turner said he was assured by the trainer Davis would not be jeopardizing his career any more than any other NFL player does every time he takes the field.
"We're not going to put a guy on the field and jeopardize his health," Turner said. "We weren't going to do it last week, and we wouldn't do it this week."
The Redskins beat the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins in their final two regular season games with Skip Hicks starting in Davis's place. But Hicks totaled only 101 rushing yards in those two games and managed only 46 yards on 23 carries against the Lions Saturday after taking over for Davis.
"A lot has been made out of Skip, [but] I think he's played well," Turner said.
Guard Keith Sims said: "Of course we're crossing our fingers that Stephen will play. But if he doesn't, we'll pick up the slack. We won't change the game plan."
The team's coaches picked Davis over Hicks during the pair's training-camp competition for the starting running back job in large part because they preferred Davis's straight-ahead running style to Hicks's bounce-it-outside approach. The Redskins use more pitchouts when Hicks plays to attempt to get him to the outside of a defense. But Hicks acknowledged yesterday he must be the one to adapt when he fills in for Davis.
"It's a matter of me having a lot of discipline and watching the offense, watching the linemen," Hicks said. "The more reps I get, the better feel I'll get for it. It's getting a feel for the offensive linemen. When you've been together for 15 or 16 games, you know each other. I need to get used to them and understand their blocking schemes."