When Kim McQuilken went to work as a sportscaster for WJLA-TV after being dropped by the Redskins at the final preseason cut, he treaded lightly on his struggling former team.

Good thing. McQuilken is back now, signed as the No. 3 quarterback as insurance against Joe Theismann's pulled hamstring muscle.

"I was a little inhibited," McQuilken said of his on-air behavior. "It was tough to be totally objective about my teammates. But I think I knew the right questions to ask and I lent an insight to things that hadn't been brought out."

Still, McQuilen's tact wasn't sufficient to entirely turn aside the needles.

"there have been a lot of jokes," he said at Redskin Park yesterday. "(Offensive coordinator) Joe Walton said, 'You shouldn't have said all those bad things about me. You didn't know you'd be back, did you?'"

Frankly, McQuilken said, he didn't. When he was dropped he was told that, though the Redskins preferred to keep three quarterbacks, they would go with only Theismann and Mike Kruczek because of injuries at other positions. w

McQuilken said he contacted other teams, but his options were limited because fewer quarterbacks are getting hurt this season.To stay in shape, he ran, lifted weights and threw passes to his next door neighbor, a banker.

"He was a far cry from Art Monk," CQuilken said, chuckling. "We mostly talked about interest rates."

McQuilken said the television job, a twice a week stint, was a revelation.

"I think I understand the press a little better, having to tell it like it is," he said. "But I still disagree with a lot of subjective stories; seeing people have to make something up to fill a time slot or a column. I understand that, though. I had to settle for less than perfection at times because of things like not having the right film."

But, added McQuilken, "In journalism you have a second chance, you can come back tomorrow. In sports, you make a mistake and you might be gone tomorrow."

McQuilken didn't make many mistakes before the microphone, but he said, he was told to simplify his language.

"I tried to get a little too specific," he said. "I would talk about strong zone coverages and they'd say great, but the audience doesn't know what I'm talking about. So then I found myself being too simplistic. It was kind of disturbing to me."

A graduate of Lehigh, McQuilken is rankled by the prevailing tendency to shove an athlete into a broadcast booth the minute retirement is announced.

"It may sound hypocritical, but there are too many sports personalities in broadcasting," the seven-year NFL veteran said. "There's a lot of weak talent in the booth because they happened to be excellent ballplayers.

"But if a guy conducts himself with fnesse and can be interesting, then it certainly can be an aid to be an ex-player. Personally, I'd like to see more quality."

Redskin Coach Jack Pardee indicated he was leaning toward starting Kruczek in Atlanta Sunday. Theismann jogged more than he did Wednesday and said, "The leg feels better". . . If McQuilken plays against the Falcons, he will be facing some other old teammates. From 1974-1978, playing with a weak line and a poor running game, McQuilken completed 107 passes in 267 attempts. . . Receiver Kenny Harrison injured a hamstring at Wednesday's practice and is questionable for the Falcons.