Cartwright in position for start with 'Skins

Davis wishes him well, but hopes his Panthers have the final say Sunday

November 14, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Stephen Davis would like nothing more than to watch Washington Redskins fullback Rock Cartwright succeed.

Just not Sunday, when Cartwright's Redskins visit Davis and the Carolina Panthers at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

"I'm proud of him," said Davis, who was the starting tailback for Washington last year during Cartwright's rookie season. "He's worked hard to be in the position that he's in. Hopefully, he can have a successful day, but otherwise, [I hope] we can come out with the victory."

Cartwright could have a hand in the result if the Redskins (4-5) hand him the starting running back position against NFC South leader Carolina (7-2).

The second-year back from Kansas State opened many eyes when he rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries in Washington's 27-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Cartwright's performance - which included a critical fourth-and-one conversion from the Redskins' 25-yard line late in the fourth quarter that extended a game-winning touchdown drive - has persuaded the coaching staff to consider naming him this week's starter.

"He could play a lot of tailback," said Redskins coach Steve Spurrier. "We'll talk about it as the week goes. There's a chance certainly that Rock could play a whole lot more."

It's a stunning turn of events for a back who carried the ball a career-high eight times in a single game in college and was a sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft.

Cartwright spent most of last season on special teams and attempted just three rushes for 22 yards. This fall, he had been used primarily in short-yardage situations.

It's a role that once belonged to Davis. In seven seasons in Washington, Davis became the only Redskins back to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is third on the team's all-time rushing list.

Cartwright said Davis taught him "to be humble and to not take anything for granted and how to run the football."

"I watched him last year and I've watched him this year, and he's doing a great job right now," Cartwright said of his mentor. "I just try to take those things from him."

At 5 feet 7 and 223 pounds, Cartwright has drawn comparisons to the 6-foot, 230-pound Davis for his low center of gravity and ability to hit the holes.

But Cartwright is aware that his time is limited. Trung Canidate, who opened the season as the starting tailback, is shaking the rust from a two-game layoff caused by a high ankle sprain, and Ladell Betts (fractured forearm) and Chad Morton (high ankle sprain) are expected to return in a few weeks.

Cartwright said he won't be angry about returning to his previous role.

"If they need me to be 75 percent, I'll be 75 percent. If they need me to be 5 percent, I'll be 5 percent," he said. "Whatever I can do to contribute and help us win, that's all I'm concerned with."

Next for Redskins

Matchup: Washington Redskins (4-5) vs. Carolina Panthers (7-2)

Site: Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 45, 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)

Line: Panthers by 6

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