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Aug. 29, 2006, 5:40AM

If season started today, Lundy would be No. 1 on depth chart

By JOHN McCLAIN
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Running back Domanick Davis, the Texans' career rushing leader, is in danger of not making the team this season.

Davis, who missed five games in 2005, has not practiced since the first week of preseason because of a bruised left knee that is unrelated to the arthroscopic surgery he underwent on the same knee in December.

Unlike Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency, Davis has been unable to be on the field to impress his new coaching staff, specifically head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Troy Calhoun. Kubiak said Monday that if the regular season began today, Lundy would start against Philadelphia.

Each day, Kubiak grows more concerned about Davis' lack of availability. The roster will be reduced to a final 53 on Friday, one day after the Texans close the preseason at home against Tampa Bay.

"I'm very concerned," Kubiak said. "There's not much we can do about it, but I'm very concerned about that situation.

"It'll be a tough decision for the final 53. We'll make the decision based on what's best for Domanick and the team."

The Texans will have several options. They can make Davis, 25, part of the final roster and wait for him to get healthy. They can place him on waivers. They can put him on injured reserve, which means he wouldn't play this season. They also could trade him, which is unlikely because he's damaged goods.

Davis, 5-9 and 227 pounds, can't be placed on the physically unable to perform list because he passed a physical before training camp.

Asked what has to happen for Davis to be on the 53-man roster, Kubiak said: "We have to see something that shows he's making a lot of progress. Before the game Thursday, we'll probably have a sit-down with Domanick, the doctors, possibly his agent and everybody involved in the process, to see where he is. That's going to be a big call.

"The farther we go without him being on the field, the tougher that decision becomes. And when I say tough, it doesn't necessarily mean that Domanick won't be on the 53-man roster. If he's definitely making progress and everybody thinks he's going to be able to play, then he will be (on the roster)."

Davis was on his way to a third consecutive 1,000-yard season a year ago but came up 24 yards short because of the knee injury. The surgery removed part of his lateral meniscus.

Davis didn't participate in the Texans' offseason program while rehabilitating his knee. When camp began, he was on the practice field for two days before suffering the bruised knee that has him sidelined.

"I see a guy that's done everything the doctors have asked him to do," Kubiak said. "He was feeling great on the first day of training camp. He was excited about the season. I watched him work for two days and watched the knee respond.

"I know it's been very frustrating for him. Last week, we set a schedule for him to follow, and I'm very encouraged by what he did. He ran well. It'll be interesting to see how he comes back."

Kubiak has emphasized since early in training camp that Davis has to prove he can practice before he can play. He won't play against the Buccaneers.

Lundy and Morency, who will enter the regular season as the top two backs unless the team acquires some competition for them, won't play against Tampa Bay. Antowain Smith and rookie Chris Taylor will share the playing time.

"They (Lundy and Morency) have played hard, and they've done a good job overall," Kubiak said. "Both are going to play, but if the season started (today), Lundy would be the starter, and Morency would play.

"Antowain is fresh because he hasn't played the last two games. This is a big night for him. We want to see him and Taylor. We've got a tough decision to make on those two."

Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith are looking at the waiver wire to bring in players at several positions.

"We'll be looking at linebackers very hard, and we'll be looking at running back hard," Kubiak said.