Starting spot eases pain for Redskins back Davis Notoriety from fight with Westbrook lingers

September 07, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Pity Stephen Davis no more.

After 19 days of humiliation that have followed one of the more bizarre incidents in the NFL, the Washington Redskins' second-year running back is getting a chance to fight back.

No, he isn't being given a pair of boxing gloves and the right to beat up on teammate Michael Westbrook in revenge for the pounding Westbrook gave him on the sideline during practice Aug. 19.

Davis is getting the one thing he has only been able to dream about since being drafted in the fourth round out of Auburn by the Redskins in 1996 -- a starting spot in a backfield that the now-injured Terry Allen (broken left thumb) has dominated for two seasons.

Davis can use the opportunity to hurl his 6-foot, 234-pound body at the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense today in a 1 p.m. game at Three Rivers Stadium.

And if he is successful at running the ball for the Redskins, he could be on the way to shaking off some of the notoriety gained when the videotape of Westbrook hitting him again and again on the ground was shown around the country.

When Steelers coach Bill Cowher was asked last week what he knew about Davis, he said first, "I know him and Michael had a little thing between them."

Cowher went on to say, "I know he is a big, hard running back, a bruiser."

L At least he knew something about Davis as a football player.

"I'm glad this opportunity came," Davis said. "Because everybody knew me from what happened, and now I can give them something to remember from football."

Allen isn't relinquishing his spot without trying to keep people in suspense up to game time. He has persuaded coach Norv Turner to keep him on the active roster.

Davis carried 12 times for 55 yards late in last Sunday's 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, but he ran only 23 times for 139 yards his entire rookie season.

Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte said, "Stephen can handle the load, running up the middle and taking the pounding."

It will also be an emotional afternoon for Frerotte, as he gets his first chance to step on the field against a Steelers team he loved as a youngster growing up in Ford City, just 30 miles from Pittsburgh.

Frerotte got to know some of the Steelers' personnel four years ago when he spent his final semester at Tulsa working as a corporate fitness consultant for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"I never went to that many Steelers games because they were always on television," Frerotte said.

"It will be pretty neat to go back and play in that stadium. Hopefully, I won't be too nervous and throw the ball away."

Frerotte's father, also Gus, had a heart transplant in May and is expected to be among 40 family members and friends at the game.

"My family doesn't get to too many games, especially with my dad's health," Frerotte said. "So this will be nice having him there. I'll have some emotions going on, but I really want to try to put that out of my mind and play a good game because my team needs me right now more than my family does."

So just who will the Frerotte family be rooting for?

"They've got a little Redskins blood in them now, but they're all Steelers fans," he said.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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