It was the last play of the Washington-Dallas game on "Monday Night Football," and as time ran out, the ball bounced into the hands of Redskin free safety Danny Burmeister. Arms above his head in triumph, he celebrated his team's 13-7 victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys. The TV camera zoomed in. It was Burmeister's moment of glory.

Yesterday when the game ended at RFK Stadium, Burmeister was in the stands, sitting in an end zone seat. A week ago he had been a replacement player; now he was an anonymous fan, watching the real Redskins beat the real New York Jets, 17-16.

But though his seat was in the stands, his heart and mind were on the field. "Sure, I'd like to be out there," he said, "but I wouldn't want to go one on one against {the Jets' wide receiver Al} Toon.

"Yes I would," he grinned, immediately contradicting himself. "I mean, once you play football, there's nothing else like it. Nothing else."

For the past three weeks, football was everything again for the 24-year-old Burmeister. "It was just great to be lining up across the field from guys like Danny White and Tony Dorsett," he said, remembering last week's Dallas game. "We felt the rivalry,because they had a lot of their starters out there, and we were going to show them what we could do. I mean, this was our chance to play football in the National Football League, on national TV, on 'Monday Night Football.' It was great."

Burmeister and Co. didn't just play the Cowboys, they beat them. "That," Burmeister said, "was great."

But that was last week. Yesterday the regular Redskins were back, and for most of the game they seemed to be floundering. And as the Jets moved ahead, the chants started. Softly at first, but by the middle of the third quarter they were loud and clear throughout the stadium. "We want the scabs! We want the scabs!"

Burmeister grinned. Then he chuckled.

"Yeah, I'd like to be out there," he said again. "It's kind of weird, sitting up here watching. It's like there were two different teams, us and them."

There were two different teams, and for a while at least, the crowd was cheering for the one that wasn't on the field.

Football has been a central part of Burmeister's life for a long time, and for years he expected to be out there, in the NFL, with the real Redskins. At Oakton High School he was named an All-American.

"People expect you to make it {to the pros} when you win something like that," he says. "I mean, it was a great honor and it was fun winning it, but it puts a lot of pressure on you, and sometimes that pressure's unrealistic."

But at North Carolina, where he majored in economics and psychology, he broke his leg in spring practice in 1983. It put him on crutches for five months, and it put the NFL out of his head for several years. When he got back on the field, he had to learn a new position.

"They moved me from wide receiver to defensive back because they were worried about my speed," he says. "I was just hoping to be able to play in college again."

He did play, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches' 1985 Brian Piccolo Award for the most courageous player. His senior year, he started at free safety. He graduated this spring. This summer he tried out at Redskins training camp. He was cut.

"I figured that was it," he says. "I thought that was my professional football career right there."

But then came the strike. And with it came a second chance for Burmeister and the other replacement Redskins.

"I didn't care that we were called scabs or whatever," he says. "I mean, if it wasn't me, it would have been somebody else. For me, this was an opportunity to show everybody what I could do. You've got to seize the opportunity."

It was the second quarter, and the Redskins weren't doing too well against the Jets.

"They don't have intensity on offense," Burmeister said. And that was the difference, he said, between the replacement team and the one that -- at the time -- was losing on the lush turf of RFK.

"We were all fighting for a place on the team. It was like we were trying out, trying to show people what we could do. We were giving 110 percent. For me, this was my big chance. It was probably my only chance to play in the NFL.

"But what we did is over," he said. "The real Redskins are on the field, and we're all rooting for the 'Skins. Their losing doesn't help us at all."

He paused for a moment, and with a gleam brought on by visions of dollar signs, said, "I hope they make it into the championships, because we all get a share of the championship money."

Burmeister said he holds no animosity toward the real Redskins, and hopes they hold none toward him.

"I know there are disadvantages. I know their careers are short and they don't have flexibility in where they work." But to him, this was the chance of a lifetime. "This is my home town, and this is the home-town team, and I got a chance to play for them."

Burmeister isn't counting on making football his life. "I figure that last Monday night was the last professional football game I'll play in my life," he said. But he's not giving up just yet. This weekend he'll be going to Atlanta for a tryout with the Falcons. And he might give arena football a try. "The Chicago Bruisers," he said, with a laugh. "But I don't know how much fun throwing guys into boards indoors would be."

Burmeister plans to give the NFL another year, have his agent shop him around, and then, if football isn't in his future, to go into the corporate world. "I have a job lined up with Procter and Gamble as a sales rep," he said, "but I may end up going back to school."

It's hard to give up on a dream. And Burmeister lived out the dream of every kid who's ever picked up a football.

But his life, he said, hasn't really changed. "Now my buddies will expect me to play a lot better in our neighborhood games," he joked. "And they'll figure if they can beat me they can be in the NFL."

What the strike has done is give him the chance to live the football dream a few months longer. "I want to play," he said, "but I have to be realistic too."

And if there is no more football for Danny Burmeister, he'll always have Dallas and the memories of those closing seconds.

One regret.

"I wish I had kept the ball," he said. "I just wish I still had it."