Davis Gone, Not Forgotten

The closer Stephen Davis got to the end of his Redskins' career, the more it bothered him that he was being pushed out. After the Philadelphia game, in which he left with an injury, Davis confronted that end. He was asked if that was his last carry, causing him to snap at a reporter. Several minutes later, he confided that he knew his season likely was over--just like his career in Washington.

Tears formed in his eyes. And several times in the final weeks, when Davis talked about his possible end, his eyes moistened again.

That the Redskins cut Davis, third on their all-time rushing list, wasn't a surprise. But it is the end of an era--remember Believe in Stephen, the slogan used at the end of the 1999 season?

Davis' runs provided inspiration for his teammates, when he'd run over a defender for extra yards. Those runs set a tone for the offense--actually, he did that for the whole team. Defenders would wave towels or step onto the field, hollering at Davis after one of those runs.

Just think how much damage he could have done with any kind of consistent passing attack. In his four years as the primary runner, Davis only had one season in which the quarterback play was consistent. He turned that into a record-setting year in '99, gaining 1,405 yards and scoring 17 touchdowns. Naturally, Washington made the playoffs.

But the past two seasons he got almost no help from the passing game. Yet, in 2001, he established Washington's single-season rushing mark with 1,432 yards. And he still averaged 4.0 yards per carry, even as defenses geared to stop him, walking up an extra defender with regularity.

Davis joined Washington as a fourth-round pick in 1996. When he was drafted, some pegged him as a steal.

But I remember this: he ran too straight up. Davis made himself easy to tackle as a young player because of this, giving defenders an easy target.

However, his one year at fullback in 1998 developed a toughness in Davis, as did his studying of Terry Allen. Yet no one expected Davis to do what he did the following year.

Instead, Skip Davis was expected to start. Though coaches publicly said it was an even battle that summer, it wasn't. When asked by a member of the PR staff before the final preseason game which player should appear on the GameDay cover, then-coach Norv Turner didn't hesitate.

''Skip,'' he said.

Sounds funny now, doesn't it?

We know what happened: Davis started and embarked on a strong four-year run, becoming the face of Washington's offense.

. . . The Redskins will save approximately $7.4 million against next year's salary cap with the release of Davis, safety Sam Shade and tight end Walter Rasby. Washington also cut punter Craig Jarrett.

One note on Shade: he was one of the classiest players to deal with. When he lost his starting safety job this season to Ifeanyi Ohalete, Shade still answered every question. He was available win or lose, something not many of his teammates could say.

Shade was a limited safety, but his work ethic and wisdom wasn't limited.

As for Rasby, the Redskins want a pass-catching tight end. He's not it. They signed Zeron Flemister before the season ended and they like Robert Royal, the rookie who spent all year on injured reserve.

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