DREAMING OF GLORY (SOMEWHERE IN CHARLES MANN'S SUBCONSCIOUS):

The football is snapped. Bodies crack into bodies. A defensive end, wearing a burgundy No. 71 on his white jersey, charges around the end of a line of 10 men pushing and shoving and comes face to face with his prey. The quarterback, the star of the show, is about to fall to the ground in the arms of a bigger, stronger man. The big man wraps him up. He takes him down. A sack. A quarterback's nightmare. A defensive end's dream. GETTING READY FOR WORK:

The wake-up call is startling in the silence. It's Sunday morning at the Dulles Marriott. Autumn has arrived, and it's cool outside, good football weather, which is why the phone is ringing. Crackling through the receiver, the voice of someone at the front desk is telling Charles Mann it's time to go to work.

He's up in a flash, suddenly impatient. He had to wait all night to get up for what he dreams will be the greatest day of his life. Mann snaps on the light, yelling at roommate Ken Coffey to get out of bed, then disappears into the shower. In no time, Mann is pulling on his T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, then striding downstairs into a meeting room big enough to hold 45 football players and all the food they eat for breakfast. But he isn't hungry. He picks at the bacon, scrambled eggs, toast and sliced potatoes that have accumulated on his plate, and then pushes himself away from the table.

"The guys who know they're not going to play, they are the ones who pig out," he says.

Charles Mann knows he is going to play. He has the best job in the world, even if he is known as the guy on the other end of the line from Dexter. He plays football for a living, left defensive end to be more exact, for the Redskins in Washington. Every player ever drafted knows it's one of the greatest places a pro could ask to play: a consistently good team; fans who adore you; teammates who, by and large, are regular, dependable guys; loads of opportunities to make yourself famous on the side. At 26, Mann makes good money, too -- about $250,000 last year, which breaks down to about $15,625 per game. That's how the checks come, 16 of them in a year, every Monday during the season.

Mann gets paid well for what he does because he's a real professional. He prepares for his work as carefully as a doctor or a lawyer. Although many people think that a defensive lineman is just a big, powerful brute, lunging spontaneously off the line to sack quarterbacks, his moves are actually part of a complicated choreography, carefully rehearsed. Every play is the result of meticulous observation and anticipation born of constant practice and numbing study. For the fan, each Sunday in the fall is a break from the drudgery of the work week. For Charles Mann, it's just another hard day at the office. COMMUTING:

Mann drives home from the Dulles Marriott in his Chevy Blazer, the vehicle of choice for defensive linemen, changes into a suit and tie, picks up his wife Tyrena and heads to the office. His mind is racing. His head is on the field already. How will he do? An offense runs an average of 60 plays per game. His goal is simple: one sack.

A football player, Charles Mann says, is nothing without his dreams. Years ago, when he first started playing on the sandlots in Sacramento, Calif., Mann realized a play could only be made after it had been dreamed about, mapped out, step-by-step, in one's brain. Thousands of things can happen during a play, especially when one considers there are 22 men on the field, each making moves based on what he sees -- or predicts -- are other men's moves. Each man has so many options. The quarterback isn't the only person making the choices out there. The players you can't see, the ones entangled in battle on the line, are the ones who will fool you. They might be the most sophisticated, the wiliest of all. Theirs is a game of minutiae. If the offensive lineman jerks his head, you lean to that side, because you know he's going the way his head moved. With tackle Dave Butz standing beside your right shoulder, you run a stunt, a maneuver designed to fill a gap, not necessarily to stop a person. Your opponent blinks, you're past him. "If you haven't thought about a play," Mann says, "you're not going to make it."

For instance, last season, Mann spent a week thinking about Denver's John Elway, perhaps the most elusive quarterback in the National Football League. Hours and hours, eight a day at Redskin Park, countless others at home, were spent obsessed with Elway. It sounds almost passive, but Mann's job was called "contain," a verb turned into a noun by football coaches, meaning a player should not let Elway get outside of him. It worked so well that Mann got three sacks, 30 percent of his total in an injury-ridden, disappointing year.

The first sack was unreal. Mann was lined up, the offensive tackle in front of him. The ball was snapped, and the offensive tackle was gone. He left to double-team Dave Butz. Now, Mann had two things in front of him: 10 yards of grass and John Elway. Mann is fast for a lineman, with 4.8 speed in the 40-yard dash, but he was slowed by 10 to 12 pounds of equipment. Then again, Elway was wearing his gear, too. "I'm licking my chops," Mann says.

Part of the reason for Mann's glee was simple. Elway, who is right-handed, was setting up to throw the ball to the left side, something that doesn't happen very often. Mann thought he could blind-side Elway, which is the way Dexter Manley, rushing from the other side, gets most of his sacks on right-handers. This time, for a change, the quarterback wasn't staring Mann in the face.

But Elway heard footsteps and turned to see Mann bearing down on him. The center, back to block for his quarterback, turned into Mann, upsetting his feet. Mann started to fall. "If I don't make the play, I am in trouble," he was thinking. "Elway gets around me and he's gone. The coaches will get mad at me on Monday for not having contain."

So Mann did the only thing he could think to do. As he flew by Elway, lunging over the blocker, he kicked out his left leg, karate-style. His shoe met the ball and sent it spinning into the air, away from Elway. A pileup ensued. Denver recovered the fumble, but for an 11-yard loss. A sack. But was it legal? "It must have been, or they would have called a penalty," Mann says, laughing. ARRIVING AT THE OFFICE:

If there were ever a time for thinking, "visualizing success," it would occur in the locker room. It's a long walk from the parking lot out front of RFK Stadium, past the autograph hounds and security guards, into the bowels of the stadium, where the locker-room door opens onto a long hallway before the wide expanse of the dressing room reaches out to greet a player.

The locker room is slowly coming to life when Mann gets there. It's a small city on a game day. Witness Mann's odyssey through it: He enters, goes to the door of the training room and on a piece of adhesive tape writes his number -- 71 -- which is the football equivalent of taking a number at the ice cream parlor. Waiting to be called to have his ankles and right knee taped for battle, he strips off the nice clothes, throws on shorts and grabs a cup of coffee. Usually, it's only one cup, just enough to get edgy.

"I don't want to be out on the field on third down and long early in the game and thinking, 'I've got to use the bathroom.' " And if that happens? "You hold it. We've got strong bladders in the NFL." There are four stalls and four urinals in the home locker room at RFK. There is a mad dash to use them at halftime.

Keoki Kamau, the assistant trainer for the Redskins, tapes Mann when it's his turn. It takes Kamau just 8 to 10 minutes to wrap 90 feet of tape on two ankles and one knee. Mann tapes his wrists and fingers in ways taught to him by teammates -- wide strips on the wrists, thin strands in figure eights on the fingers. Total cost to the Redskins in tape: $15. It will take Mann 45 minutes to an hour of walking around the locker room to loosen his taped knee enough so he can run. "You've heard of mummies . . ."

Football players tape almost everything. Tape is protection, stability, insurance. Tape solves all problems. Mann has elastic sewn into his jersey sleeves so they don't flap where an offensive lineman can grab hold and turn him out of a play; if he didn't have the elastic, he would tape his sleeves to his arm. He tapes his fingers and his wrists, one knee and both ankles. This happens before every game and every practice. Taping does not always occur without incident; offensive tackle Mark May was wrapping his wrists by the field one day when a bee landed on the tape and got trapped inside.

Mann even has his shoes taped -- spatting, it's called -- so that his ankle remains sturdy inside his shoe. This process presents a problem, though. The tape covers the brand name of the shoe, and a player is paid to wear those shoes, to advertise them on TV. Some players get paid a lot of money to wear the shoes, sometimes up to $10,000 a year; others, like Mann, who are not so famous, get a tiny fraction of that amount and maybe some free shoes and equipment to give to relatives. This season Mann will represent Kangaroo, and the tape he puts on will cover the company emblem on his shoes.

Equipment manager Jay (Jaybird) Brunetti draws the emblems on each player's tape in magic marker. The companies supply stickers, but those don't work. Every player knows they fall off 15 minutes into the game.

Before they begin to put on their equipment, most players sit on the benches in front of their locker, or on the floor, reading the Game Day program -- and saving it for the scrapbook if they appear in it -- wearing Walkman headsets, swapping stories. Mann doesn't wear a Walkman and doesn't say much. When he sticks an arm into the air, he notices he is shaking. Just slightly. Just right.

For entertainment, Mann, like everyone else in the locker room, watches Dexter Manley. Manley puts on a headset and screams and dances to the music, working up quite a sweat. The players used to wonder if this might not take something out of him before a game. They don't worry anymore. DRESSING FOR SUCCESS:

For the fourth time today, and it's just after noon, Mann changes clothes. This time, he is dressing for battle. He puts on his jock, then his socks and his football pants. He pulls on a gray half-T-shirt, then puts his shoulder pads on top. If he wore no T-shirt, his shoulders would be raw by the second quarter. He places a foam neck pad behind his head, to guard against whiplash, he says. Mann's neck is too long, and he fears it would snap back if it were not protected.

Next comes one of the hardest parts of the day -- putting on the jersey. Most players get started themselves, then stand there blindly, tied up in their jersey, their arms stuck straight in the air, waiting for someone to put them out of their misery.

The rules say you can't wear jewelry on the field; Mann wears no chains anyway. Some of his teammates forget to take them off and invariably end up losing them to the clawing hand of an opponent.

Mann carries his helmet, one with four bars especially close together around the eyes so stray fingers don't find their way through, onto the field with him. He should wear a mouthpiece to protect his capped front teeth, but that hasn't worked well. "I get tired. When I get tired, I want to open my mouth and be able to breathe good. I can't get enough air with my mouthpiece in."

Knowing he should try to wear one, Mann usually starts a season with a new one, fitted by the team dentist. But the same thing always happens. After the first defensive series, back on the sideline, he tucks it in his pants and forgets it's there. He goes back out and loses it on the field. Players like Rich Milot and Dave Butz stick their mouthpieces in their socks, but that's no good either, Mann says. "When they put it back in their mouths, the thing has lint all over it." MEETING WITH THE BOSS:

All dressed, Mann lies on the carpet in the locker room and stretches. There is a pep talk from Coach Joe Gibbs. And, pretty soon, Mann is on the field, and the national anthem is playing.

No disrespect intended, but Mann has something else on his mind when the anthem is playing. His eyes are scanning the unbroken line of players on the opponents' sideline, searching for the right offensive tackle. That's his man. In the locker room at Redskin Park that week, pictures and bios of all the opponents have been pinned to a bulletin board. Every player knows who his man is, where he went to college, if he's married or has kids. Now they get to see each other in person. Mann wants to see how his opponent looks, if he is bigger than he thought or smaller. "I try to stare him down, too, but at that distance you can't tell if your eyes ever meet his eyes."

On the field, a football player's mind should never wander, Mann says. But there on the sideline Mann is imagining who is watching the game, especially if it's on national TV. Which people he hasn't heard from in years are suddenly remembering they once knew Charles Mann?

Often Mann is one of the captains who go out to midfield for the coin toss. Coach Joe Gibbs likes the psychological edge of having more captains than the other team. Sometimes the Redskins win, 6 to 1. "We will never be outcaptained," Mann says.

Mann runs back to the sideline to wait the final minutes before he will go in and play. This is a strange time of the day. It's a lull, Mann says, when nervous energy runs out and physical exertion has yet to commence. "It feels like if you slept too long and you're kind of groggy," he says. "When you see guys hitting each other on the shoulder pads, what they're doing is trying to shake themselves up, get themselves ready."

Darryl Grant, the tackle who plays next to Manley in the Redskins' four-man front, has an interesting little ritual before each game: He pours a cup of water over his head. Mann tried that once but it didn't work well, although he did get wet. Now he simply finds a teammate to crack his shoulder pads a time or two, and all is well.

Well, almost. On the very first defensive play of the 1985 season at Dallas, Mann was so exuberant he was called for a late hit on quarterback Danny White. He broke free of his man and into the backfield. White unloaded a pass, and Mann had time to stop, but he didn't and crashed right into White. "I'm thinking, it's a shame I got through and he threw the ball, so I hit him anyway. That settled me down and the rest of the game went well."

Mann doesn't like the reputation he has gained for getting personal fouls or late-hit penalties, but he has had his share. He once pushed Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen out of bounds and was hit with a personal foul call, good for 15 yards. "I'm 6-foot-6, 270 pounds," he says. "I can't stop on a dime." Gibbs has told his players that if they get in that kind of situation, they should get their hands up in the air, as if they didn't mean it. A sympathetic official might let you off. "I use that a lot," Mann says.

Last season, he leveled Green Bay quarterback Randy Wright, hitting Wright's helmet with his own helmet. Wright received a concussion and spent the night in the hospital. Mann received a $2,500 fine, which he appealed, futilely. "Last year and the year before last, I was known for getting late hits on quarterbacks. I've been back there so many times and so excited, only to watch the quarterback let go of the ball. I want sacks so bad, sometimes it's hard to stop. It's not malicious."

In fact, Mann says things will be different this season. He is one of several Redskins who attend chapel services the night before each game, and he studies and memorizes Bible verses before he goes to bed every evening. He is part of a support group of four players -- with Ken Coffey, Darrell Green and Keith Griffin -- who meet once a week to talk about their lives, families and how they can "learn to love one another . . . We hold one another accountable," he says. "A lot of people think religious people can't be strong and play hard. Well, they can. If Jesus were here, He would not be a wimp."

This year, Mann wants to cut out the penalties. "When you see a guy getting penalties like I was, you are looking at a guy trying to get the respect of other players by playing tough. Well, no more. I realize kids are watching me. I realize as a Redskin I can be an example. I believe I can knock a guy down legally and then pick him up, like Butz does. What if I did it? People would say, 'Hey, Charles Mann knocked down a guy. Hey, Charles Mann just picked him up.' " TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS:

As fans are settling into their seats around the stadium, the tension on the sideline is unbearable. It's time to get out there, to play. It's time to be in a huddle.

On first and 10, there is so much for a defensive end to worry about. It's not second and long, or third and short, when the play seems obvious and a defender can cheat this way or that. On first and 10, no one knows.

In the huddle, no one is supposed to talk except free safety Curtis Jordan, who stands outside the group, looking at Richie Petitbon, the team's defensive mastermind, waiting for signals that will tell him what to say to his teammates. Jordan softly relays a six-syllable command, something like "Forty-Three Slam Strong Zone." The numbers and first word tell the defensive linemen what kind of line alignment they will have and what kind of rush they will use -- a four-man line with three linebackers, a Redskin staple; and a straight-on, no-frills rush called "Slam." (The name has been changed to protect the Redskins in case Tom Landry gets hold of this article.) The last two words tell the linebackers and defensive backs what they are going to do in the next 10 seconds.

Mann says he doesn't pay any attention to what the words for the pass coverage are. All he needs to know about pass coverage is this: "If a quarterback holds the ball for 6 or 7 seconds, he's going to make a big play because the defensive backs can't cover a receiver that long."

The 11 men break the huddle with a clap of their hands, in unison, a tradition most have known since junior high. They slowly trudge to the line, in no hurry because the offense still is huddling. The football sits by itself, a marker for the line. Butz and Grant, the two tackles, walk to either side of it. Mann and Manley leave 1 1/2 feet between the tackles' outside shoulders and themselves. When the offensive linemen walk toward them and lean over the ball, Mann goes into his stance. He looks for the offensive tackle's right shoulder. He draws an imaginary line between that right shoulder and his right shoulder, and begins to lean over. Already, he is outside of his man, just as he likes it.

Mann's left hand reaches toward the ground as he stretches his body out, on tiptoes, rear end high in the air. If the Redskins are playing on a baseball field, and the ball sits on the skin of the infield, Mann desperately tries to find grass on which to plant his fingertips. He hates dirt. No traction.

His left hand on the ground, Mann takes his first step with his left foot to try to get outside and around the tackle. He does not want to go inside and get double-teamed or stuck. He wants space to run. He wants out. To go outside, he must move to his left.

Mann calls his stance the "high-booty" method. "You can see my behind miles away," he says. "My wife has no problem seeing me out there, and it's not because I'm tall." When he arrived at Redskin Park from the University of Nevada at Reno for his first practice in 1983, his stance was even more pronounced. Defensive line coach Torgy Torgeson told him to push his toes back farther, to use his legs more.

As he lines up, pawing at the ground with his cleats, ready to hurl himself into a man just as big to fight over a few yards of grass, Mann hears his own husky breathing and little else. A word or two is being spoken: "Watch for the stunt . . . Six, six {indicating that a running back is coming to the six-hole, located between the tackle and tight end, where Mann is} . . . I'll take him . . ." Jordan is yelling changes to the linebackers and defensive backs. All the secrets are now out. CHATTING WITH A CO-WORKER:

Although Manley is all the way down the line, past Butz, past Grant, Mann worries about him. Mann doesn't do much talking at the line, but if he does, it's a good guess he's talking to Manley. As defensive ends, they have the same desires and responsibilities. If Manley overdoes it on the former, Mann takes on more of the latter. He will shout to Manley to "remember his back responsibility," which means in certain defenses the ends will have to cover running backs circling out of the backfield to catch a pass. Last season, Mann watched Dallas' super back Herschel Walker run out of the backfield as a receiver when he had the back responsibility, and although the Cowboys didn't throw to Walker, this was enough of a scare to make Mann wonder if he should consider a different line of work.

As the play is about to begin, Mann's eyes search for clues. He looks at the running backs first, to see if they are lined up his way. Then his eyes move to the offensive tackle's feet. If he is up on his toes, it's a signal the offense is going to run, because the tackle is getting ready to come forward. If his heels are down, it signals pass, because his first step will be backward, to set up. Mann has been told to watch the ball to see when it's snapped, but it's too far away, so he watches for the first flinch of that offensive tackle. When he moves, Mann moves. "That's why Dexter and I get offsides penalties sometimes."

In practice the week before this game, about 20 new wrinkles were added to the defensive game plan. They were presented to the players Wednesday by Torgeson and worked on during three days of practice, Wednesday through Friday. By the time the game begins, 10 may be available, the other 10 having been discarded after being tried against the scout-team offense and found not to work.

Mann has also been told what to expect. After watching a season's worth of film of a team, the coaches predict what the opposition will do, and drill that into the players' heads, too. On Sunday, Mann sees a familiar play unfold and thinks, "Is it real? Or is it Memorex?"

Or, his heart sinks. It happened against the New York Giants the first time the Redskins played them last season, on "Monday Night Football." The Giants did something they had never done before -- put a tackle and a tight end on Mann or, sometimes, Manley. The Raiders do this, but the Giants never had -- until that game. Mann got sandwiched. "I'm on the ground and Joe Morris' footprints are on my back," he says. It was the worst game of his career. "Completely embarrassing." Fortunately, it aired against the seventh game of the World Series, so few people were watching. Players think of these things.

Seventy percent of the time, the tight end lines up next to the tackle across from Mann. The reason is simple. Most of the world is right-handed. Most offenses put their tight end on their right, the defense's left, because quarterbacks most often roll, look and throw to the right. Manley is the right end, which means he faces the offense's left, which means he doesn't often butt heads with the tight end. Mann's engagement with the tight end usually is brief, a quick hit, before the tight end is gone downfield. But Mann believes being detained, no matter how short a time, creates the difference between his statistics and Manley's. Mann has had 35 sacks in his four-year career; Manley has had 57 1/2 the last four years.

Mann's favorite thing on a football field is getting a sack. Tackles are nice, but nothing compares to the kick of a sack. But you don't just get a sack. Bulling past the line, grabbing Elway, pulling him down . . . it builds over months. It builds in the weight room on a Nautilus machine that looks like a shoe store footrest chair. To get a sack, Mann says, the most important part of his body is his left hand. It gives him the "strength to grab." Defensive players can grab offensive linemen, can hold their jerseys, the works. Because Mann reaches with his left hand, it must be strong. So every other day he sits on this little machine in the Redskin Park weight room, his hand gripping a handle tightly, pulling 35 pounds of cold, hard weights up and down, 12 times in all, with his left hand.

Toward the end of last season, after getting his knobby fingers stepped on, jammed, bent over backward, Mann could lift no more than 15 to 20 pounds with his left hand. He figures a strong left hand can give him five or six more sacks this year, simply because of the power to hold, to push his man inside and get around him. Ironically, Mann's left hand will never have the power of his right hand, which can do 50 pounds on that grip machine. That's because the right hand never holds 270 pounds in a stance and doesn't grab an offensive tackle's jersey 60 times a game.

The left hand, footwork, leg strength . . . all make a sack. So does sneakiness.

Butz looks up from the huddle toward Torgeson, a pleasantly plump 58-year-old who was an all-pro in his day. Torgeson signals for a stunt. Definition: a variation. The line might shift to its left or right, or Butz and Mann will criss-cross and try to confuse the offensive line. The players call them games. Games inside of games. CLEARING THE DESK:

If it were all strategy, no one would invite fans to watch. Mann knows his stuff, but he wouldn't be ready every play were it not for the emotion of the moment. In that first Giants game, right in the middle of it, Grant ran onto the field and regained the first-string spot he had lost the season before when he had suffered a knee injury. What a lift this was. "He's back, and we know he's probably 80 percent," Mann says. "He and I compete on things, how many tackles we have, how many fumble recoveries." Competition, even jealousy, between Redskins is real, just like on any other job. Grant's return drove deep into Mann. He had something to prove. He wanted to outdo Grant again. "Remember the guy in 'Hoosiers' who wants the ball at the end? On third and one, I want the guy running right at me."

The same thing happens to Mann when Butz gets going. This is so rare, it's amazing. When the younger players get Dave Butz, 37, high-fiving his teammates, they know they've got something good going. Butz is emotional against St. Louis, his old team. He picks one other Sunday at random during the year, it seems, to go wild. The players can't wait for the moment.

Butz is a stalwart, a big man to lean on. Literally. During the Redskins' wild-card win over the Rams last December, Mann made a big mistake. He snacked at halftime, taking one of Jay Brunetti's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wolfing it down. In the second half, he felt his stomach cramping up. There was nothing to do except drape himself over Butz and moan between plays. "Dave, I'm not going to make it. Dave . . ." Mann kept looking to the sideline, looking at fresh players who couldn't wait to go in. But he would die before he left the field because of peanut butter and jelly.

The pitfalls for a football player are innumerable. It's third and one, the running back runs a "dive" play toward Mann, and the ball squirts loose. Players go after the ball hard but almost don't want to be the first one with their hands on it. The pileups Mann has been in have looked like street muggings. Players know to grab at the fingers of the man holding the ball and peel them away from the ball so they can steal it from him before the refs see it. Mann says, smiling sneakily, "I may have peeled back a few fingers in my career."

It's a game of survival. In four years, Mann has missed only one game. But from head to toe he has suffered injuries to 14 different areas of his body: cuts on his forehead from his helmet ripping his skin; a black eye when an oversize helmet he was wearing slid down and hit him in the eye; a root canal when he got hit in the mouth two years back; a pinched nerve in his neck; a sprained right shoulder; a swollen left elbow; numerous sprained wrists; sprains in every finger on both hands; an abdominal pull; two pulled groin muscles, both at the same time in 1985; a bruised left knee; two arthroscopic operations on his right knee; a twisted left ankle that will always be bigger than the right one; and a toenail on his middle toe, left foot, that can't withstand the pressure of training camp and falls off once a year.

Injuries have a funny effect on a big guy like Mann. In the fourth game of the 1986 season, at home against Seattle, Mann got pushed into a blocker by linebacker Angelo Snipes and twisted his knee. As he lay on the ground, trying to get up, assistant trainer Keoki Kamau ran out and bent over him. "Relax, man, stay down," he said to Mann. But Mann knew he couldn't stay put, for a most unusual reason. "I'm in RFK. So is my wife. If I'm carried off, she will go crazy."

Mann got up and hobbled off the field. He stayed on the sideline, telling anyone who would listen, "I can go back in. I can go back in." It's one of those "macho things" football players do, he said.

But he never went back in, and he had the knee drained the next day, when he learned a ligament was stretched. The following week, the Redskins traveled to New Orleans. Tyrena made Charles promise her he would not play. He wanted to, but he kept his word and never went in. The trainers and coaches had a say in the decision, too.

By the next week, he was playing and he did not miss another start, although his knee wasn't in good shape the rest of the season. Mann had been hoping the '86 season would be a Pro Bowl year, but now he had missed his first game and was not playing at full speed. "Talk about depressing." After the bad performance against the Giants, Mann couldn't sleep for a week. He was a nervous wreck. He went to see team doctor Donald Knowlan twice for tranquilizers. Knowlan said no and suggested aspirin. It was the pressure. He wasn't playing as well as he had hoped. Manley was going great guns. They compete, both of them admit. It hurt.

"I never abused drugs or alcohol," Mann says, "but for the first time, I understood why people did."

He began to play better, getting two sacks against Minnesota and one against Dallas in November, before the three at Denver. He obtained pictures of them, framed them in clear plastic and hung them on a wall with the others in the basement of his three-bedroom Reston home. It's his sack wall, just what every defensive end needs. He's got to get some of the game's biggest guns yet, guys like Joe Montana and Jim McMahon. "You can say you sacked them, but it's better to have a picture to show it," he says. WORRYING ABOUT TOMORROW:

The post-game prayers and game balls shared and dinner at Houston's in Georgetown completed, Mann goes home to watch the TV highlights -- if he can stay up that late. The game will not officially be over until Monday, when he gets his report card on the game, every play written down with a "+" or "-" next to his name. On a sheet of 60 plays, he'll average eight minuses. You get one for stepping with the wrong foot, for getting taken out of a play by a block, for slipping. Mann's eyes come back to these things later, for when he first sees his sheet, he looks for sacks. The game statistics kept in the press box might give him a sack, but until the coaches, after watching the team's tape of the game, give it to him the next day, it's not officially his. Players have been known to come in early and lobby for a half sack because they were close to the tackle or a full sack if they were given partial credit. This is serious business. Contracts have sack clauses.

This, after all, is a job. Mann has his real estate license and is trying some acting, but that's only for fun. Ask Charles Mann on a Monday morning at 8 a.m. where he is headed, and he won't necessarily say Redskin Park. He'll say, "I'm going to work."

Or ask him on a Sunday, after the wake- up call. His answer will be the same. ::

Christine Brennan reports on the Redskins for the Sports section of The Post.