- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

One Pro Bowl player probably down, one Pro Bowl player definitely back.

Washington Redskins halfback Stephen Davis didn't practice for a third straight day because of a sprained right knee yesterday and remains doubtful for tomorrow's game at Seattle. However, left tackle Chris Samuels participated in his third consecutive practice and will return after missing last Sunday's 26-21 victory over Indianapolis with a sprained ankle.

Davis said his knee felt "a little bit'' better yesterday and that he was still holding out hope that he could play. Coach Steve Spurrier, whose team will work briefly on the FieldTurf at Seahawks Stadium today, said he'll see how Davis feels tomorrow but expected that Kenny Watson would get the start against Seattle's NFL-worst run defense. Second-round draft choice Ladell Betts would be the backup.

"Kenny played well last week," Spurrier said. "He's ready. He's a good back. He's quick. He can make guys miss every now and then. He's attentive. He's got a wonderful attitude. He really wants to play. He's the kind of guy you love to have on the team and the kind of guy you hope succeeds when he has his chance."

And now that chance might come for Watson, 24, who made the 2001 Redskins as an undrafted rookie but was active for only one game and spent most of the season on the practice squad. Watson is averaging 5.2 yards on 29 carries and 10.3 yards on 11 catches.

"I'm very excited," said Watson, who ran for 67 yards on 15 carries against the Colts when Davis didn't return for the second half. "It's an opportunity I've been waiting for, to be a starter in an NFL game, so I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Watson started 10 games at receiver as a Penn State senior, but that was his only year as a regular since his senior season at Harrisburg (Pa.) High School.

"It's not really a big adjustment for me, because running back is my natural position," said the 5-foot-11, 214-pound Watson. "[But Penn State] had a lot of guys stacked up at running back and we were pretty thin at receiver."

With Davis set as the starter, Betts having been drafted high and Robert Gillespie, who had starred for Spurrier at Florida, having been signed as an undrafted free agent, Watson's chances to be an NFL back didn't seem likely to happen with the Redskins. But he had a strong preseason, pushed Gillespie onto the practice squad and wound up beating out Betts to be the first back off the bench.

Watson carried eight times for 62 yards when Davis was hurt at Tennessee in Week4 and took a screen pass 62 yards for his first touchdown against New Orleans in Week5, but his most impressive work came on last week's final drive as the Redskins clung to a 23-21 lead. Spurrier called Watson's number 10 times on the 13-play march, and he responded with 42 yards, including a critical 6-yard run on third-and-6. The series lasted 6:28, ended in James Tuthill's 22-yard field goal and left the Colts with just 11 seconds remaining.

"The O-line did a great job," Watson said. "I just had to be patient, find the holes and hit them. It's like a rhythm you get into. Everything seems to slow down. Things start to come easy. I'm more patient this year, and I try to study more. The one thing I did try to do more is learn what defenses are trying to do. I think that helps a runner a lot. I like the way things are going. I've just got to continue to work hard, never be complacent."

Davis has missed only three games since becoming the No.1 halfback in 1999. He sat out the final two regular-season victories that year with a sprained left ankle and was sidelined during a loss in 2000 because of a fractured right forearm.

Meanwhile, right guard Brenden Stai, who hasn't practiced since being diagnosed with tendinitis in his left knee following a 43-27 loss to the Saints on Oct.13, didn't make the trip West. Wilbert Brown will make a third straight start in Stai's place, with newly added Tre Johnson shouldering an increasing share of the workload.

With the regular kickoff return tandem of Watson and Betts seeing so much time on offense, Spurrier said Willie Jackson, who didn't join the team until Thursday, could be active as a kickoff returner and extra receiver. Spurrier said that on offense, Jackson would rely on quarterback Shane Matthews, his ex-Florida teammate, to tell him what to do.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.


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