- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2000

Stephen Davis was back on the practice field Thursday and Washington's Pro Bowl halfback should start Saturday's second-round NFC playoff game at Tampa Bay.

"I'm very encouraged," said Davis, who didn't run his 10-15 plays at full speed. "There's no doubt [he'll play]. I did what I wanted to do, which was move around a little bit. It feels pretty good. In practice, sometimes it takes a while to get warmed up. The cold keeps the ankle kind of tight, but down there in the heat, it will get loose faster."

Actually, the projected high in Tampa Saturday is only 68 degrees, which is unseasonably chilly for Florida but about twice as warm as it will be in Washington.

Davis had sat out the previous two days with a sprained right knee and a sprained left ankle that he aggravated during the second quarter of last Saturday's 27-13 opening-round victory over Detroit. Davis, who led NFC rushers with 1,405 yards despite missing the final 2 and 1/2 games with the ankle injury, also sat out the first two practices last week before running for 119 yards on 15 carries against the Lions as the Redskins built a 20-0 lead.

"I thought he moved around real well, like he did a week ago on Friday," coach Norv Turner said. "I would think he would be able to play… . All you have to do is watch the first half of last week's game. We're a lot better when Stephen's in the game."

Trainer Bubba Tyer, who's preparing for the 30th playoff game of his 29 Redskins seasons, is optimistic Davis will be ready.

"Stephen's not 100 percent, but he did better," Tyer said. "When he would start out fast and cut, he did well. Coming back [to the huddle], you could see he gave into it a little bit. That's the same as it was last Friday."

Center Cory Raymer, who missed Tuesday's practice after straining rib muscles against Detroit, went through the entire workout and also will start Saturday.

"I'm tons better, as long I don't have to run and hit somebody," said Raymer, who still has pain when he twists his body.

Fortunately for Raymer, centers don't do much running.

Ticking clock

Redskins offensive tackle Andy Heck has been in the NFL for 11 seasons and never has advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs. Now, his team is on the verge of doing so Saturday at Tampa Bay, but he won't play after tearing his left hamstring last week.

"I've been waiting my whole career, through a lot of losing seasons and being released last year [by Chicago], to play in this big a game," Heck said. "It should be the happiest time of my career, but now I'm on the outside looking in. All I can do is work to get my leg healthy as quickly as possible and plan like we're going to win this game and maybe I can be ready for the next one."

Redskins linebacker Fred Strickland doesn't even have that hope. The 12-year veteran has been in the NFL for 12 seasons. He has played in three conference championship games but never a Super Bowl. The Redskins are two victories away from the title game, but Strickland is merely a spectator after being placed on season-ending injured reserve Oct. 26 following knee surgery.

"It's very hard watching the games knowing that I'm healthy enough to be out there contributing, especially as we get deeper in the playoffs," said Strickland, who joined the Redskins this season as a free agent from Dallas. "When I was young, I didn't think about how many chances I would have to get to the Super Bowl, but now I know this could be my last shot [at 33], and I'm not in uniform."

No stopping now

When the Redskins win their playoff opener, they usually keep playing for a while. Washington is 5-2 in second-round games since the conference playoffs were expanded beyond two rounds in 1978.

The Redskins reached the Super Bowl in four of the five years they won their second-round game, losing the 1986 NFC Championship game to the New York Giants. However, Washington's second-round defeats came in two of its three most recent playoff years, 1990 and 1992.

Although only 23 of the 53 Redskins had playoff experience before this year, 15 of them have advanced beyond the second round.

And while Washington's 22-14 playoff record (.611) is third in NFL history behind Green Bay's 22-10 (.688) and San Francisco's 24-15 (.615), Tampa Bay's 2-4 record (.333) is the third worst, ahead of only Arizona's 2-5 (.286) and New Orleans' 0-4 (.000).

Looking on

Heck, fellow offensive tackle Jamie Brown, defensive tackle Barron Tanner and receiver Derrius Thompson were Washington's early inactives.

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