- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

PHILADELPHIA The play, like Stephen Davis' season, started off with so much promise. A 15-yard burst through the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles defense what better way for Davis and the Washington Redskins to set the tone for the entire afternoon?
And then, disaster. A stripped football. An Eagles safety scooping it up along the sideline. And Davis lying on the Veterans Stadium turf, writhing in pain.
This isn't how Davis pictured his season (and possibly his Redskins career) coming to an end, being helped off the field with a dislocated right shoulder on the second play of the game nonetheless.
It was an unceremonious conclusion to a frustrating season, one that had more than a few people wondering whether Washington's 34-21 loss to Philadelphia included Davis' final appearance in a Redskins uniform.
"A lot people may say it was, but the thing is, right now I'm under contract," said Davis, who is expected to be cut this offseason for salary cap purposes. "I can't worry about what happens in the future. I can only worry about things that happen to me in the present."
The present doesn't look too promising for Davis. Coach Steve Spurrier said after the game he does not expect the veteran running back to return for either of this season's remaining two games.
"In all likelihood, I believe that's a two-week injury," Spurrier said. "It could be something very serious."
Davis' prognosis wasn't nearly as dour: He spoke publicly of coming back next week against the Houston Texans or for the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Privately, though, Davis acknowledged that there is little reason to believe he will return.
"It's hard for me to say right now," said Davis, who will undergo an MRI today in Washington. "I'd love to get myself better and go out there and play. But I can't say right now."
Many in the Vet crowd of 65,615 hadn't even settled into their seats when Davis went down on the game's second play. After gaining 9 yards on the Redskins' first play from scrimmage, Davis' number was called again, and he responded by breaking through the Eagles line and into the open field.
But safety Brian Dawkins, chasing from behind, punched the ball out of Davis' right hand. Michael Lewis pounced on it at the Philadelphia 49 while Davis jammed his right shoulder into the Vet's famed harsh artificial turf.
"I was trying for the extra yard and had the ball away from my body," Davis said. "He made a good play. I fell on [my shoulder] wrong. It kind of popped back and out of place."
After several minutes on the ground, Davis was helped off the field. He returned to the sideline wearing a sling to watch the second half and offer support for his teammates.
"He's one of the people I love to death," guard Tre Johnson said. "You don't ever want to see anybody get hurt, especially not your boy. You just hope he comes out of it OK and it's nothing serious."
Barring a miraculous comeback in the next two weeks, Davis will fall short of his goal of a fourth straight 1,000-yard season. With 24 yards on two carries yesterday, he finds himself stuck on 820 for the year. His career rushing total stands at 5,790, 85 yards behind Larry Brown for second place on the Redskins' all-time list.
And barring a surprising turn of events, Davis likely will find himself looking for a new employer this offseason. He would count $11.4million toward the salary cap next season, and the Redskins would save $5.2million by releasing him.
Davis, though, isn't ready to concede anything.
"I play professional football," he said. "I don't want to be sitting on the sideline. I want to be out there playing football. If my shoulder's doing better, I'm going to be out there on the football field. If it doesn't, I just have to get it better and look forward to next year."

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