A D.C. Fire Department paramedic who kept Joe Theismann's jersey after taking the injured Washington Redskins quarterback to the hospital last Monday said yesterday that he found the jersey in the ambulance and kept it because he considered it a souvenir.

William McLaughlin, an eight-year member of the fire department ambulance division, said at a news conference that he is an avid Redskins fan and had no intention of selling the white jersey emblazoned with number 7, which fire department spokesman Ray Alfred said was returned to the team Thursday.

Alfred said McLaughlin and Henry Lyles, the other paramedic who took Theismann to Arlington Hospital after he broke his leg during Monday night's game against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium, apologized to the fire department and their coworkers for any embarrassment the incident has caused.

In a written report on the affair, according to Alfred, "McLaughlin said he loves Joe Theismann" and has followed his heroics on the field.

"If the guys want the jersey, they're more than [welcome] to have it," Theismann said yesterday at the hospital.

"I know the company that manufactures the jerseys -- as a matter of fact, I work for them," he joked. "I can get another jersey without much of a problem."

McLaughlin reported that while taking the quarterback to the hospital, he helped him remove his shoulder pads and jersey and put them on opposite ends of the ambulance, Alfred said.

The spokesman said McLaughlin told officials that when he and Lyles took Theismann out of the ambulance they grabbed the shoulder pads but didn't see the jersey.

While Lyles drove back to the District, McLaughlin said, he rode in the back of the ambulance and discovered the jersey, according to Alfred. The spokesman said McLaughlin related that when he got home that night, he threw the jersey on a chair and went to bed.

After he left home the next morning, McLaughlin's wife discovered the jersey, called some friends and told them about it, and the friends said that it was probably worth a lot of money, Alfred quoted McLaughlin as saying. The paramedic said his wife then called a novelty store and, out of curiosity, asked them what it was worth. He said he never had any intention of selling the jersey.

Alfred said McLaughlin gave the jersey to the fire department when they inquired about it Tuesday. A decision on whether any disciplinary action should be taken against the paramedics is awaiting completion of the department's investigation of the incident, Alfred said.