And now for the rest of the story.

Sixty-three days ago, the Washington Redskins beat Tampa Bay, 21-13. That victory came a week after another upset, this one a 37-34 overtime win against Philadelphia. Joe Gibbs' team was heading home to RFK Stadium for a game against St. Louis Sept. 26.

Then the NFL strike started. The games stopped, the talking began.

And now, finally, the rest of this marred season is about to begin today at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The walkout is over, at least temporarily. The Redskins and Giants will find out, starting at 4 p.m. (WDVM-TV-9), whether four days of practice can compensate for eight idle weeks and constant discussion among the players about terms of the proposed agreement with the National Football League.

This is unexplored territory: the first midseason resumption of play after the league's first inseason strike. No one -- not the players, not the coaches, not the bookies, not the armchair quarterbacks -- can be certain how the athletes will perform.

Yet in this shortened season, teams with playoff hopes must play well immediately. With only a nine-game schedule, there isn't much room for error. At least the Redskins (2-0) have some leeway; the 0-2 Giants have little. The oddsmakers rate the game even.

"That's the thing I hate most, that the Giants are 0-2," said Gibbs, who says he has enjoyed this past week so much "I haven't even got tired of eating hamburgers every night.

"That team was in the playoffs last year, they are that caliber of team," he said. "You know they are really pointing to this game. They are going to go after us. If we don't play well the next three weeks (against the Giants, Philadelphia and Dallas) we will be in trouble."

And what of his own team? Gibbs is cautious, a hint perhaps he has not been completely pleased with the Redskins' form as they returned from the strike.

"I don't think we are as sharp in any phase as we were eight weeks ago," he said. "Joe Theismann has looked good but it's going to take a game to find out about him, too. We are dealing with a lot of unknowns here, there is just no way of telling what will happen."

Gibbs expects players to tire faster (he says he'll substitute more) and defenses to dominate, especially if the passing games suffer from the layoff as much as he predicts.

Theismann, as usual, is optimistic.

"I think we are capable of playing well," he said. "You have to worry about timing and execution. But it's not like we took six months off and now have come back for training camp. We all were preparing right along to come back, so we tried to stay sharp. It won't take that much to come back."

Theismann and his offense should be helped by the return of halfback Joe Washington, one of the team's few big-play men. Washington, who underwent knee surgery in September, was inactive for both early victories. Now he is near 100 percent and could wind up alternating with John Riggins today after officially being activated. He replaced halfback Clarence Williams on the roster.

The Redskins benefited from the recovery time more than the Giants, who still are without quarterback Phil Simms (knee). And halfback Rob Carpenter, the key man in their playoff drive last year, remains a contract holdout. He'll be replaced by rookies Joe Morris and Butch Woolfolk.

New York lost both early games in Giants Stadium after being outscored, 22-0, in the fourth period by Atlanta and Green Bay. Quarterback Scott Brunner completed 40 of 70 pases for 501 yards, helping the Giants average 323 total yards. But neither rookie back has given the team sufficient running balance.

Still, the Giant defense, built around linebackers Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor and Brad Van Pelt, is better than Washington's. If defenses are ahead of offenses, that could give New York an edge.

Before the strike, Gibbs' offense was doing well. Theismann was leading the NFC in passing (40 of 59 for 494 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions) and Riggins had rushed for 202 yards, including 136 against Tampa Bay. Receiver Art Monk had caught 12 passes and new starter Charlie Brown eight, three for touchdowns. And Mark Moseley, who withstood a preseason challenge from Dan Miller, had kicked six straight field goals, plus three more in the union's all-star game at RFK Stadium.

The Redskins rank fourth offensively in the conference, but 10th defensively. Their secondary is yielding 251 yards a game, including a handoff of long pass plays. That's one reason rookie Vernon Dean will start for veteran Joe Lavender at cornerback.

Back in September, Washington rallied in the final minute to tie Philadelphia before winning in overtime. Then the Redskins' sure hands (they've only had two turnovers in two games) helped them beat Tampa Bay in a hard rain. They have won five straight regular-season games and 10 of their last 13.

But all that came before the strike. Who knows now how the story will end?