Moving to debunk reports that tailback Domanick Davis could be released because of lingering knee problems that have kept him off the field for virtually all of training camp, Houston Texans first-year coach Gary Kubiak said there has been no discussion of cutting the leading rusher in franchise history, and said that the worst-case scenario was a season spent on the injured reserve list.
"The idea of cutting Domanick Davis has not even played a factor," said Kubiak, who is clearly frustrated by Davis' continuing absence, but not yet ready to give up on the three-year veteran. "I don't know where that came from. The decision is strictly [whether] his knee is going to be healthy enough to play. If his knee is not healthy enough to play, if that is the decision that's made about him, then he's looking at [an injured reserve] season ... The other choice has never been a factor."
Kubiak's remarks came amid published and broadcast reports that the Texans might be preparing to release Davis, who has not practiced since the early days of camp and has not played in a preseason game.
The overriding caveat: Because he is injured, Davis can't be released, at least not without a settlement. Were the Texans to waive Davis, who has led the team in rushing each of the past three seasons and who is the top ground gainer in franchise history, they would almost certainly subject themselves to having an injury grievance filed by the player.
Davis' agent, Rick Smith, told ESPN.com that he was taken aback by reports his client might be released.
"Where's that stuff come from?" Smith said. "They can't cut him, he's hurt, and they know that. Look, no one is more frustrated than Domanick that this [rehabilitation] is taking a lot longer than everyone thought it would. But they just can't seem to get the swelling down. When that's addressed, he'll be back."
Davis, 25, missed five games in 2005 and underwent arthroscopic surgery in December to repair the lateral meniscus cartilage in his left knee. Since early in camp, Davis has been sidelined by a bruised left knee, but the condition is not related to the surgery of eight months ago.
Houston cannot place Davis on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would sideline him for at least the first six weeks of the season but also but some time for him to recover, because he passed the team physical at the outset of camp and actually participated in the first two days of practices. That leaves the Texans, it seems, with two options: Keep Davis on the active roster or place him on injured reserve, which would end his 2006 season.
"The idea of cutting Domanick Davis has not even played a factor. I don't know where that came from. The decision is strictly [whether] his knee is going to be healthy enough to play. If his knee is not healthy enough to play, if that is the decision that's made about him, then he's looking at [an injured reserve] season ... The other choice has never been a factor."
-- Gary Kubiak
Kubiak said earlier in the week that he hoped to convene a meeting with all parties involved, including Davis' agent, but Smith said he hadn't yet been asked to attend such a session. He also emphasized that there has been no discussion with Davis about being released.
Because he has only three seasons accrued toward the NFL pension plan, Davis would be subject to waivers, if he were released. Despite his sore knee, some team might be tempted to claim him, and assume his contract, even if it meant keeping Davis, who also missed much of the Texans' offseason program as he rehabilitated from surgery, off the field entirely in 2006.
There would also be some cap implications if the Texans waived Davis, who signed a four-year extension worth more than $20 million, and with $8 million in guarantees, in August 2005. The cap ramifications, for the most part, though, would be delayed until 2007.
Davis told The Houston Chronicle on Tuesday that his condition has become increasingly frustrating.
"I could get mad and curse and start a fight with somebody, but what good would that do?" Davis said. "[But] this is draining me. I hate just watching. I want to play. I'm doing everything I can to get better. I feel good one day, and then I aggravate it and have to back off a little. I want to play. I could be tomorrow, the next week or longer, I just don't know."
What is all but certain is that Davis will not be ready for the Sept. 10 season opener against Philadelphia. The starter, in his absence, is expected to be rookie Wali Lundy, a sixth-round draft choice, with second-year veteran Vernand Morency as the top backup.
A fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft, Davis was projected mostly as a kickoff return specialist when the Texans selected him, but the former LSU standout claimed the starting tailback job near the middle of his rookie season and rushed for 1,031 yards in his debut campaign. In three seasons, he has 3,195 yards and 23 touchdowns on 770 carries, and only the knee injury in 2005 kept him from a third straight 1,000-yard season. Davis, who has made himself into a dependable receiver, also has 154 catches for 1,276 yards and five touchdowns.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.