- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

Stephen Davis isn't the Forgotten Man.
It only seemed that way through the preseason, when Davis' carries were scant and his yards few as Redskins quarterbacks took turns whipping the football around the field to a fleet of wide receivers.
Davis remained a back who had rushed for better than 1,300 yards in each of the last three seasons, but there were questions about his role and whether "running back off-tackle" would make Steve Spurrier's list of "ballplays" on Sundays.
Davis showed yesterday he's a productive, punishing back in any offense, and Spurrier showed he's going to use him.
"[The preseason] had nothing to do with the game today," Spurrier said. "That's just something to write about before the regular season starts. Everything about me and this offense is just something to write about."
The Redskins' change in philosophy became apparent immediately as they turned to Davis early and often in yesterday's victory. He posted a very solid 104 yards on 26 carries, but more impressively added seven receptions for 46 yards, displaying a dimension that has been rarely utilized in his career.
Davis set the tone from the beginning. On the game's first play, he got one yard on the ground, then seven on a reception. Then he carried for four more for a first down. The trend continued all told on the Redskins' 11-play opening drive, which resulted in a field goal, Davis touched the ball seven times.
"You don't know what's going to happen in the course of a game. You have to do what's best for you and best for the team and whatever's working," said Davis, who surpassed 5,000 career rushing yards yesterday. "I love getting the ball in my hands and moving the chains catching the ball, running the ball, whatever."
In the first half, Davis got yards through the air his seven receptions in the opening 30 minutes, often a product of Shane Matthews dumping the ball off after primary receivers were covered downfield tied a career high. In the second, he stayed on the ground. Davis didn't have any big gainers his longest run was 12 yards but instead kept wearing down the Cardinals defense behind a retooled offensive line.
"We knew we were going to run Stephen Davis," Chris Samuels said. "A lot of teams probably thought we were going to go out there and air it out every single time because of the preseason. I think we kind of tricked them."
Davis had his usual workload of between-the-tackles carries, but he got loose with some outside tosses and some misdirection, too. On the first two plays of the Redskins' initial third-quarter drive, Champ Bailey lined up at wideout and, on the snap, circled back on a fake end-around. The decoy worked, as Davis burst through for eight yards on the two carries.
"That little weakside toss to Stephen was certainly a play we hadn't used all year, but it seemed to set up nicely against these guys," Spurrier said. "It's easy to call run plays when you make yards."
Spurrier's offense is most recognized for its spread formations that sometimes include five wide receivers; it is, after all, the Fun 'n' Gun, not Fun 'n' Run. But Samuels, who appeared to be completely healed from the ankle injury he sustained in the preseason, said he wasn't surprised about how the offense mixed the run with the pass.
"In my opinion, Spurrier's always been a balanced-attack guy," Samuels said. "I played him four years at Alabama and backs were always getting over 100 yards, and he ran the ball quite a few times and ran it well."
Davis' role with the Redskins takes on a different meaning for him personally because of his contract situation. Right now, Davis will count a monstrous $11.4 million against next year's salary cap, meaning he must renegotiate his contract or risk being cut. Davis proved his worth in this offense from the first game, putting the onus on the Redskins to get a deal done to keep him in Washington.
After the game, Davis gingerly ambled through the locker room before receiving treatment in the training room, as he does after every game. He was banged and bruised, but said yesterday's wear and tear was about par for the course. He was asked what he would do to recuperate.
"I'll go home and do some soaking," Davis said with a smile.

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