Football season is finally here, but Skins fans don’t give a rip about the new stadium or the team’s playoff prospects or even beating Carolina. Michael Westbrook’s beating of Stephen Davis, on the other hand, has all of D.C. punch-drunk. And the buzz around town is that for all the attention accorded the crime—WUSA-Channel 9 still has its exclusive video of Westbrook turning Redskin Park into Battery Park in heavy rotation—the criminal hasn’t suffered suitably. His coach lacks the job security to dole out any real punishment, and the NFL and local law enforcement lack the guts or the interest.

So sue him.

Davis, who is either an incredibly humble team player or a humiliated victim, publicly states that he’ll forgive Westbrook his trespasses. Screw that. He should have already hired a pugnacious personal injury attorney, one of those “We don’t make one dime until you make three dimes” guys, and sicked him on the sicko. Let a jury view the tape of Westbrook in football pads throwing haymakers and Davis in street clothes catching them, and the plaintiff will be picking through Westbrook’s personal effects quicker than you can say “Fred Goldman.”

Want Westbrook’s shiny Lamborghini, Steve? Take it. How ’bout that movie theater he added onto his house? Hell, how ’bout that house? All yours. Then you could invite Westbrook to his former digs, and just turn that super-big-screen TV to Channel 9 and make him watch his handiwork, over and over.

What P.I. attorney wouldn’t want a chance to plunder the deep, deep pockets in Westbrook’s baggy chinos? As they say, if Davis has a phone, he’s got a lawyer. The folks at Ashcraft & Gerel, a firm that blankets daytime television in the D.C. area with cheesy spots that aim to attract a client base of malformed babies and aching construction workers, think he’s got a great case: Attorney Martin Gerel admits

he thought “lawsuit” the first time he caught the beating video.

“If Mr. Davis wanted to proceed in a civil manner, he’d certainly have a colorable claim,” states Gerel. “At this point, Mr. Westbrook couldn’t very well go in front of a jury and deny beating on a man who is cowering and just trying to cover his face from his attacker. Clearly, a significant form of battery took place. It’s all there, all on tape.”

Westbrook told his agent that he “went off” only after Davis verbally poked him with homosexual innuendo. That’s a weaker defense than anything Ron Lynn put on the field, and look what happened to him. (The more creative Roberto Alomar claimed he withstood both a racial and a sexual slur before launching a loogie.) The moment he turned pro, Westbrook started proving that it takes a lot less than sticks and stones to get him on the injured list—two years, two touchdowns—so it’s believable that words could do him in. But that “He called me a homo!” crap won’t save the Lamborghini.

“No words could justify the significant battery that occurred,” Gerel says.

Westbrook’s neighbors have already been victimized by his sexual self-doubt: The Washington Post reported last weekend that Westbrook is now being sued for failing to cooperate with a homeowners’ association in his development. The sensitive split end will probably try using the same defense in that suit. Sorry again: They were calling you a homeowner, Mike. Not a homo. Home-own-er.

Until Westbrook gets professional help to rid himself of these insecurities, journalists should choose their words carefully while working the Skins beat, lest they risk a Davis-size beating. It’s OK to draw comparisons of his talents and those of Cowboys star Deion Sanders, for example, but it would be reckless to ask Westbrook if he ever thought of going both ways.

And to save Gus from a fistic invasion, Norv should limit the scope of the Redskins’ offensive play calling, too. Gus tends to mumble, and the coach wouldn’t want to see the play clock wind down as the quarterback explains to a fiery Westbrook that he asked him to run a flag pattern.

So far, Westbrook hasn’t been given any incentive to get the help he clearly needs. Turner showed a comical lack of perspective by announcing Westbrook’s paltry punishment before the welts on Davis’ face had even fully raised. He fined the player $10,000 and gave him no playing time in the Skins’ final exhibition game. Westbrook has an $18-million dollar contract and an incredible knack for staying off the playing field—and what’s more, in training camp sitting out a game isn’t called a suspension, it’s called a day off—so the head coach didn’t exactly come off as playing hardball. Turner eventually stiffened the sentence a bit, but only because of the public’s revulsion with what the player had done, and even that was a day late and a few hundred thousand dollars short of justice.

The NFL, likewise, would rather pretend the Westbrook incident never occurred than sideline one of its rising stars. As far as the league is concerned, Westbrook could have thundered another hundred blows into the face of his all-but-defenseless teammate just as long as he didn’t have any blow in his pee.

Loudoun County prosecutors proved to be just as spineless. Even after the much-televised assault, they said they won’t make any move until Davis comes to them. What cowards! Davis shouldn’t have to suffer further humiliation just to get the DA to do his job.

“In a felony case, it’s not up to the victim to come forward,” says one prosecutor familiar with the beating. “In fact, the victim has no say at all whether a prosecution is going to move ahead in a felony case. From a practical standpoint, a prosecutor’s job is a whole lot tougher when the victim won’t cooperate—we’ve all heard a domestic abuse victim try to say, ‘Uh, I got these bruises on my face from rough sex’—but it’s still our job to go after the case. With that tape being shown so much, I think the [Loudoun County] prosecutors are going to get a whole lot of heat if they don’t take some action. And they probably deserve it.”

So it looks like a civil suit or nothing. Westbrook doesn’t know it yet, but he, too, would benefit if Davis brings litigation. Because until the victim gets his day in court, Skins fans will be talking about that attack. And as long as they’re talking about the fight, Westbrook will never get his wish to put it behind him.

So to speak, Mike. So to speak.—Dave McKenna