This time, Joe Gibbs is trying to downplay his excitement. This time, he wants training camp to last a bit longer before he starts dreaming of how to best utilize receiver Charlie Brown.

But it's no easier than it was last year, when Brown kept catching passes that should have been incompletions. It's not easy because he is a talent: a leaping, sure-handed, quick-footed receiver whose presence would make the Redskin offense much more versatile.

Yet Gibbs also remembers the last weeks of the 1981 camp, when Brown hurt his right knee in a game against Baltimore and was lost for the season. He had already began counting on Brown, and the loss hurt the team's early offensive development.

"Joe is hesitant to get carried away about Charlie and I don't blame him," said Dan Henning, the assistant head coach who works with the receivers. "Joe has the responsibility for the whole team and he doesn't want to be let down again.

"But I can't help getting excited about Charlie. He's playing just like he did in last year's camp, and even better. He's a year older and more experienced and it shows. If he keeps going, he's going to upgrade our receiver position. He'll challenge for a starting spot."

Brown's progress is important for another reason. If he can stay healthy and continue to dominate this camp, it will allow the Redskins to bring rookie Carl Powell along slowly.

Right now, Powell, the No. 3 draft choice projected as the team's eventual deep threat, is trying to cope with the barrage of information that receivers must absorb daily, and with the enormous amount of running required in workouts.

His legs hurt and his mind is swirling so much he says he even has been dreaming of football. Henning knows Powell is struggling, just as an equally inexperienced Brown struggled last year. Henning also hopes that Powell will become less hesitant, just as Brown, an eighth-round pick from South Carolina State, did around the third week of practice last summer.

"The one thing about receivers," Henning said, "is you never know when they will come around. The breakthrough is unpredictable. We have confidence Carl will become a good one, but you never know. For now, we have to wait until he sees the big picture regarding his position. He's only seeing bits and pieces for the moment.

"He certainly is the kind of receiver we want. He has speed and he is strong. He complements Art Monk's style on the other side very well. But you also have to remember Carl has never been subjected to this much concentrated receiving before. It's all new to him."

Powell, a high school quarterback who switched to receiver at Jackson State, caught only 31 passes in college. He ran undisciplined patterns in the wishbone offense, mostly from only one side of the field, and even his practice time was limited.

"I just never had to do this much running before," he said. "My legs are dead. I want to show some speed, blow by some people, but my legs aren't responding. It's frustrating, but I can't let it get to me. I have to be patient and when my legs come around, I'll be okay."

Everything about this camp is new for Powell. He never had to read defenses before, never had to run defined patterns, never had to work against talented defenders on every play. For now, all Henning is asking is more aggressiveness.

"Carl has been hanging back a little and we've asked him to go after it a little harder," Henning said. "But he'll be okay. He is a lot like Charlie and Virgil Seay. He keeps his mouth shut and listens and tries."

The Redskins would like to carry only four wide receivers. Monk, the improved Seay and Brown form a solid nucleus, with Powell and veteran Alvin Garrett major challengers. If both Powell and Garrett perform well, Gibbs might be forced to carry an extra receiver.

Powell, who is running behind the smaller Seay, gained a reputation at Jackson State for avoiding contact over the middle, a knock he says he will erase.

"I'm as big as most cornerbacks and I'm quicker than the linebackers," he said. "I can stand up. I've taken some headache knocks and come back. They'll find out. If they want to hit me, they are going to have to pay for it, too."

Certainly, no one has ever accused Brown of having problems over the middle. His leaping ability and long arms allow him to outmaneuver defenders in the tightest situations. His style is to slip and slide through small openings in the secondary and avoid the direct hits that could devastate his slight (5-10, 175) frame.

Brown, who will start behind Monk, is better prepared this season to handle the attention. Last year was the first time he had to cope with an injury, and when he didn't handle it well, the Redskins feared he would become a one-camp wonder.

"I learned from being hurt," Brown said. "I realize now those things are going to happen to you and you can't get down on yourself. But I lived near Redskin Park in the offseason and I'm stronger and more flexible now. I hope that will help me against getting more injuries."

That's what the Redskins are hoping too.

"At this point," Henning said, "if we lose Charlie Brown again, we'll be behind the gun again. We need him."