The Washington Redskins and St. Louis Cardinals look like sickly twins in the National Football Conference's Eastern Division standings. They are tied for the last place at 3-9 and playing out the string to see who gets the better draft choice.

But to newly acquired Redskin center Tom Banks, late of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington club is worlds above the Cardinal organization, which Banks insists treated him -- an 11-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler -- shabbily.

"It's great to be any place but St. Louis," Banks said yesterday after working out for the first time at Redskin Park in preparation for Sunday's encounter with the dangerous Atlanta Falcons. "I had no idea where I was going once I was put on waivers, but I understand the Giants and the Redskins were the only ones that claimed me, and the Redskins won a coin toss."

The newest Redskin has been regarded for years as one of the best centers in the NFC; he can also play guard. At either position -- and Coach Jack Parkee prefers him at center -- Banks at 6-2 and 255, should help keep muggers out of the Redskin backfield, where they have been lurking during Washington's four-game losing streak.

"Both the Cardinals and the Redskins may be 3-9," Banks said, "but this just isn't a 3-9 football team. I've heard these guys have been criticized a lot for being unenthusiastic lately, but the spirit seems high here, especially when I compare it to the morale I left behind in St. Louis."

Banks feels he had no choice but to leave the Cardinals, where he had played all of his professional years, because the management "lied to me time after time about when I would be able to be reactivated from the injured reserve. They wouldn't activate me, but my knee (in which he strained ligaments during an early season game with Los Angeles) was feeling fine."

Banks, for six years the team's union representative, said Cardinal Coach Jim Hanifan, "supposedly my good friend," agreed with management demands to keep him on the bench. As a result, Banks, who says he plans to play five more years, walked out on the team two weeks ago.

"This Redskin organization is so much better than the Cardinals," Banks said. "I really can't wait to get the chance to play at RFK, hearing the fans sing 'Hail to the Redskins' and all that excitement.The fans go crazy here. I've never heard so much noise in my life as the time last year when Joe Theismann marched these guys downfield to score a touchdown after we had the lead in the fourth quarter."

Pardee said Banks is in excellent physical condition and will, at least for the remainder of this season, be playing only center.

"I've never changed teams before, so I've never had to learn a new offensive system," Banks said. "I'll have to start studying tonight, immediately." He said the season's finale, pitting the Cardinals against the Redskins in St. Louis, will be a special incentive for him. "That day, I'll be able to show Joe Sullivan (Cardinal president) just how I feel about him and his organization. In front of everybody."

Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann is making a quick recovery from a hamstring pull he reinjured in Sunday's loss to Dallas. "It's going slow, but it's getting there," Theismann said after light jogging yesterday.

"I couldn't bear to reach down to my knees on Monday," he continued, "but today I'm down to my toes. It seems I've always been able to recover quickly. When I broke my leg in the first game of the 1972 season, I was able to come back in time to start the eighth game of that same season."