The relationship between Carolina running backs Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster is so strong, Davis had to call Foster three times in a 30-hour span to help his protege deal with Davis' season-ending knee injury.
The Panthers placed Davis on injured reserve last week after Davis' surgically repaired right knee began to swell. The move came one day before Carolina's game against the New Orleans Saints, and Davis wanted to make sure Foster was OK with it.
"It shows you no matter what we've gone through, Stephen's always made sure that I was OK," Foster said. "I've always said he's like a big brother to me."
Foster proved he was dealing with the loss of Davis just fine by running for a team-high 75 yards in the Panthers' victory over the Saints.
The two running backs will likely stay in close contact the rest of this season, even though Davis is no longer an active part of the team. They have an unusually close relationship for a pair of players who often had to battle each other for playing time.
Although Davis was always considered the starter, Foster gracefully waited in the wings the past three seasons. And when it was clear Davis wasn't the same runner this season, he stepped aside to make room for Foster.
Now the Panthers will have to make a run into the playoffs without Davis, but Foster knows he'll be rooting for them.
"We've got guys who can step up," Foster said. "It's going to be tough on the team, but he's going to want us to step up and that's what we're going to do."
Santana Moss wasn't surprised when New York Giants fans booed Eli Manning last week. After four years of playing with the Jets, Moss knows how tough the crowd can be in the Big Apple.
Now with the Redskins, Moss played in front of a franchise-record 90,588 fans in last Sunday's victory over Dallas. Asked to compare Washington fans to New York fans, Moss left no doubt which would get his vote.
"Well, there's no comparing," said Moss, the Jets' top draft pick in 2001. "I mean, I can't sit there and say who's better and who's not. In New York, you have a bunch of fans, too, but we all know in New York, they'll get on you real bad up there. So you have to win and do something big for those fans in New York. They're great fans, but they don't like to see no (garbage), man. They want it now."
It figured the touchdown catch would have been more difficult than the touchdown celebration for Wesley Duke of the Broncos.
Duke, the 6-foot-5 rookie tight end, played college basketball at Mercer. He came in fourth in the college slam dunk contest at the Final Four last year.
He made his first career catch Saturday, a 1-yard touchdown in a win over Buffalo, then celebrated by trying to slam the ball over the crossbar. He didn't get high enough and got rejected by the bar. Three days later, he was still hearing it from his teammates.
"What dunk?" asked Champ Bailey. "That never got to be a dunk."
Fullback Kyle Johnson was more severe: "I'd give him an F+. That dunk was a big zero," Johnson said.
Duke had his reasons.
"I guess football pads and being away from basketball has taken away some of my skills," he said. "I was too close to the goal to get it down. I'll be better prepared next time."
Look in the mirror
For Kelley Washington, game days have become a time to look in the mirror and wonder why.
The Bengals receiver lost his spot in the lineup this season to rookie Chris Henry. Washington, a third-round pick in his third season with Cincinnati, has fallen so far on the depth chart that he was inactive for eight of the first 13 games.
In two other games, he played, but didn't even catch a pass.
He developed a routine for those dreary game days when he was inactive, going into the weight room to work out for two hours.
"There are a lot of mirrors in there," Washington said. "I just kind of look at myself and say, 'Everything's going to work out, everything's going to be fine.' It's just time for me to be by myself. I'm usually one of the only guys in there working out. I just look in the mirror."
When Henry got arrested for marijuana possession, Washington got a rare chance to play last week. He had a season-high four catches and his first touchdown in a victory over Detroit that clinched the AFC North.
"Being inactive for a while and getting the opportunity to go out there, it felt like it was the first game of the year again," Washington said.
Coach Marvin Lewis was pleased with Washington's showing, but wouldn't say whether he had earned another chance. Henry was inactive for the game in Detroit.
"Kelley has been a very pleasant professional this year, in all of our minds," Lewis said.
"He answered the challenge. It's unfortunate we haven't gotten him suited up more."
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