Linebacker Brad Dusek has passed his first major test since undergoing back surgery in April and now could be ready for more extensive playing time, according to the Redskins' defensive coordinator, Richie Petitbon.

"It's still up to Brad, as far as how fast he wants to advance," Petitbon said, "but he really played well against Baltimore (Saturday night). For the first time out, it was something. He held up well.

"Of anything that happened in that game, that probably was the most encouraging thing."

Dusek had not been exposed to any contact work during training camp until Saturday. After entering the game in the second quarter, he almost immediately was involved in a tackle.

"I think he's better now than he was at any point last year," Petitbon said. "Last season, he had that bad leg all the time and never did get over it. He's in great shape now and it's just a matter of him making progress. But we certainly aren't going to rush him into anything."

Defensive end Mat Mendenhall, making his first appearance of the preseason after an early knee injury, also got favorable reviews from Petitbon, "considering the little work he has. He has to get better but it wasn't a bad first effort. He has a lot of ground to make up for, but he's working at it."

Lemar Parrish missed practice yesterday. He still is recovering from a leg pull, but should be able to play against New England Sunday in the final preseason game . . . Defensive tackle Wilbur Young is hampered by a sore elbow. "He did some good things against Baltimore," Petitbon said. "He's so darn big. He's going to help us" . . . Coach Joe Gibbs admitted he was trying not to get too upset over his team's play against the Colts, considering the Redskins had been making steady progress until then. "You just hate to go backward," he said. "We did do some things good on offense, like hold the ball for a long time at the end of the game again. But not enough to make me very happy" . . . Gibbs will not hold practice today, as the team begins its regular-season weekly schedule.