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Foster will start if needed

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers will wait until
Sunday to decide whether injured running back Stephen Davis will
play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Davis, who leads the NFC with 992 yards rushing, missed his
third straight day of practice Friday with a nagging ankle injury.
He has not practiced since Carolina's 14-10 loss to the Houston
Texans last Sunday.

``I think there has been improvement as the week has wore on,''
coach John Fox said. ``(But) we're not going to do anything wrong
as far as what is in the best interest of Stephen. If he's ready,
he's ready. If he's not himself, we'll hold him out.''

Second-year back DeShaun Foster will get his first NFL start if
Davis doesn't play, Fox said.

Davis ran for 153 yards last week, but his ankle began to swell
the day after the game.

He said Thursday during an NFL conference call with reporters
that there was ``no doubt'' he would play Sunday.

He declined to comment Friday after watching practice.

Fox said if Davis is healthy he will get his regular number of
carries. Davis has averaged more than 24 carries and 124 yards
rushing a game this season.

The Panthers did get some good news Friday. NFL sack leader Mike
Rucker returned to practice and participated in some drills. The
team will decide Sunday whether to play Rucker, who has also been
bothered by an ankle injury, Fox said.

The Panthers will not activate wide receiver Kevin Dyson this
week. Signed during the offseason to become the Panthers' top
receiving threat, Dyson tore his Achilles' tendon in spring drills
and was expected to be out for the year.

His recovery has been faster than expected and he practiced with
the team for the first time Wednesday.