Terrell Davis (UGA, 1992-1994), Olandis Gary (UGA, 1996-1998), and Mike Anderson, a four-year veteran of the USMC, will battle for the starting role on Monday night against the Raiders.
Davis has been hobbled by injuries this season after rushing for 101 yards in the opener. He had arthroscopic surgery in late September on the same right knee in which he tore his ACL in 1999. He recently mulled retirement after experiencing pain in his left leg similar to the pain from the stress fracture in the same leg from last season.
A MRI revealed no further damage and the pain was eventually attributed to new cleats according to ESPN's John Clayton. Davis changed cleats and had no pain in the last week and a half.
He declared himself healthy before last week's game against the Patriots but Shanahan sat him out as a precautionary measure and due to a lack of practice time with the first team.
The phantom injury caused Shanahan to nix a trade with the Baltimore Ravens that included Gary because the coach no longer thought he had three healthy running backs.
Anderson has started the past six games and rushed for 398 yards and three touchdowns on 101 carries while Gary has 195 yards and one touchdown on 45 attempts.
Gary will be a restricted free agent after this season so any extended playing time should only raise his value to the rest of the NFL. He rushed for 1,159 yards in 1999 after Davis suffered a torn ACL. Gary sat out every game but the opener in 2000 with his own torn ACL.
Expect Davis to win the competition with Anderson at second-string and Gary at third-string. When healthy, Davis is still one of the best in the league.
Ryan can be reached via e-mail.