Desiree Monk giggled when she picked up the phone. "Aloha," she began.

Just then, her husband, Honolulu-bound Art Monk, came on the line and, easy as can be, said, "No, it's never really been a dream for me to make the Pro Bowl. It had been a goal for the past couple years, but I went into this season without any goals."

Most of the Washington Redskins' midweek focus has been on fullback John Riggins, who spent another day yesterday in traction at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Coach Joe Gibbs said he expects Riggins will come to Redskin Park today to review game films and participate in the walk-through practice.

Riggins, 35, still is listed as "probable" (75 percent chance he will play) on the team's weekly injury report for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against St. Louis at RFK Stadium. The game is for the NFC East title; the Redskins were assured a wild card berth in the playoffs when the Los Angeles Rams lost to San Francisco last night, 19-16.

Gibbs seemed frustrated by Riggins' continued absence when he said after yesterday's practice, "I expect John to be there Sunday, but I have expected him to be there before and he wasn't there."

Monk has been there all season. If he were a vindictive sort, now would be the perfect time for him to climb on the Redskins bench, pound his chest Tarzan-like and bellow to the football world at large, "Take that!"

But that simply won't happen. It's not Monk's style. More likely, he simply will catch the necessary seven passes Sunday to set the league's single-season record with 102 receptions.

Such an effort would continue his average of seven catches a game this season and erase the league record of 101 receptions set by Houston's Charley Hennigan in 1964.

Late next January, Monk will fly to Honolulu for his first appearance in the Pro Bowl. And finally, he'll pack away those gloves that he likes to catch passes and records with and will save his pass-catching mastery for another season of quiet devastation.

The truth is, he has been overwhelmingly fair in the way he has abused secondaries while breaking the club record of 78 catches set last season by Charlie Brown.

Consider: Monk caught 10 passes for a career-high 200 yards in a 37-31 loss at San Francisco. "Nobody has ever had that many yards (receiving) against us," San Francisco cornerback Ronnie Lott recalled.

Perhaps to save face for the 49ers' secondary, Monk 11 weeks later caught a career-high 11 passes to generate a 41-14 victory over Buffalo.

While it is true that he caught three touchdown passes in the first half of a 35-7 victory at Indianapolis in Week 6, he was kind enough to victimize a different cornerback for each score.

"Art Monk is capable of making incredible catches," says rookie Eugene Daniel, one of the Colts' three cornerbacks beaten for touchdowns. "He makes catches that almost seem impossible to make."

Monk, 27, was in an unusually expansive mood after a practice late this week. Normally, he is shy with the media. "Art's not going to seek out any conversation," is the way Gibbs phrases it. "Art's more or less self-contained."

Monk said he grew up in White Plains, N.Y., admiring Hall of Fame receivers Paul Warfield and Charley Taylor (now his receivers coach). "Athletics wasn't a very big thing in my family," Monk said. "We never went to many games."

He was the Redskins' No. 1 choice (18th pick overall), taken from Syracuse in the 1980 draft. He was excited about playing for Taylor. "He knows a lot of tricks of the trade," Monk noted.

Before this season, injury had contained him more effectively than any cornerback. He broke a foot in the regular-season finale against St. Louis in 1982 and missed the postseason, including the 27-17 victory over Miami in Super Bowl XVII.

Then, he strained a knee in the preseason last year and missed the season's first four games.

Through it all, he said, "I don't think I've been a letdown to this organization. The first year I caught 58 balls and made the all-rookie team. I caught 56 balls the next year (1981). Then there was the strike (35 catches in nine games of '82). I caught 47 passes last year even though I missed (four games).

"Even though I'm not a big-play guy like Charlie Brown and Calvin Muhammad, I think I've been a pretty steady guy. I've been there when they've needed me."

Especially this season. Lott said, "My first year in the league (1981), I played against Art Monk and he wasn't that aggressive. The one thing that helps him now is his aggressiveness. Now, he's the type of guy who can intimidate a defensive back with his size (6 feet 3, 209 pounds). When you have that gift of size, it's tough for a (defensive back) to control him at the line. He's tough to bring down, too.

"We were all so keyed up to play Charlie Brown (two catches for 20 yards in the 49ers' game) that when we saw Art Monk, I guess we underestimated him. Charlie had been playing so well the years before. Now, Art's coming into his own."

"Art Monk is very big, he has the speed and he can block very well," the Colts' Daniel said. "You don't see that in a lot of receivers.

Already, Monk has the third-most catches in an NFL season. Besides Hennigan's 101, Denver's Lionel Taylor caught 100 in 1961. Others in the top five are: 93 by Chicago's Johnny Morris in 1964 and 92 by the Los Angeles Raiders' Todd Christensen in 1983.

Gibbs calls Monk "probably the strongest receiver I've ever been around."

Many of Monk's finest receptions are over the middle, the fear and loathing ground among receivers. Is he afraid to slide over the middle?

"Any receiver who says no, I think, is telling a lie," he said. "I won't say I don't like to do it. But there's always something in the back of my mind that one of those times I go in, I might not come out."

And what of the chance to break Hennigan's record Sunday? "I guess that would top everything," he said. "That's something I would like to get. But more than anything, I'd like to win the Super Bowl."