Len Hauss, the unquestioned leader of the Redskins as well as a significant segment of other NFL players, is a caricaturist's dream. Symbolically even more than physically, he is structured around a jaw that keeps jutting into all manner of important business.

Just recently, the newly formed NFL player-relations committee, of which Hauss is a member with one other player and two owners, told the Miami Dolphins they had three days to either reinstate Randy Crowder and Don Reese or trade them.

Dolphin owner Joe Robbie balked, tried to stall for more time and, at one point, threatened to sue. To which Hauss said, in essence: if the committee had no guts, he would leave. If Robbie wanted to sue, fine. Within the allotted time, the Dolphin players were waived.

Nearly everyone with more than casual contact with Hauss has a similar tale. Bill Brundige goes first:

"This was either last year or the year before, I'm not quite sure which because Lenny's had bad knees for so long. Anyway, his knees were bad enough so he shouldn't have been practicing, but of course he was. The trainers did convince him to at least leave practice a bit early, though.

"So Lenny's hobbling off the field - and Diron or McDole suddenly pipes up and calls him the names of a couple of players who seem to get out of practice all the time. Just joking, of course.

"But Lenny turns right around and struts back on the field. He sticks out that chin and ends up being the last player off the field. There's only a handful of guys on this team you know you can count on in a big game, really count on. Lenny's one of them."

The night before the 49er game last year, the Redskins were gathered for their usual meeting and assistant Dick Schafrath told of a dinner conversation with former teammate Monte Clark, then the San Francisco head coach.

The Redskins had lost badly to the Cowboys the week before, and Schafrath said Clark told him he thought that famed togetherness was gone. That may have been Clark's opinion. Schafrath said, but it certainly was not his. The team was as close as ever, right?

What should have happened, or at least what the coaches wanted to happen, was for the team to loudly insist Clark was full of abalone and to vow, as one, to punish the 49ers severely for their coach's mistakes. Instead, what came forth was a familiar expletive from Leonard Moore Hauss.

Hell, yes, the togetherness was shot, Hauss bellowed. And, point by point, he showed how. No names were mentioned, although even the most dense player knew all involved, from certain coaches to race to Bill Kilmer's often harsh treatment of Joe Theismann.

Suddenly, others took the ball from Hauss - and the meeting became wonderfully cathartic. Later, the player who related the story said he dropped by Hauss' room to tell him how much his stand had meant - and could see the center clearly troubled over whether what he had done was proper.

The next day, the team played splendidly. The next week, against the Giants in the New Jersey swamps, the team showed it could forget what it had learned with record haste, and later that it could get back together quickly, also.

"He's the guy who picks me up on dogs (linebackers charges toward the quarterback) in practice," said reserve middle linebacker Rusty Tillman, "and he just crouches back there with that big bull neck of his and simply knocks the hell out of me every time."

"He's the toughest guy I've ever known."

A month into his 36th year and after six knee operations, including one in which blood clots danced through his body for a dangerously long period afterward, Hauss prepares for his 183d straight regular-season game Sept. 18 - methodically and unpretentiously.

"Come into my office," he said the other day, lowering the tallgate of his lizton pickup truck. His mood was relaxed, the jaw setting rigidly only when an assistant coach scowled at him for talking with a reporter and during references to player-owner contract hassles that had filled his life for three prior training camps.

"The people who sat back and did nothing but criticise can run things now," he said. "We've been through the tough stuff (with the NFL Players Association). The leaders now can be those players who never put their necks on the line, never had to stand up to owners, never threatened.

"We did that already."

Several years ago, Hauss, Kilmer - "the only quarterbacks in the NFL to put his neck on the line." Hauss said - and others took the NFL to court with a class-action suit. All surely would have been cut from the league had the league won.

Ed Garvey was distributing their checks Friday.