They've got sophisticated machines now to do most of the heavy work on the Didier family farm, a 1,500-acre operation in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. But Clint Didier, 26, the Washington Redskins' fourth-year tight end, still has the farmer's work habits he learned before the machines came.

Before the Redskins' May minicamp, he lifted weights two hours a day, four days a week, in addition to running an hour's worth of pass patterns a day. He was working so hard he didn't hear what his body was saying to him, or what the people around him were saying.

"I got to feeling sick, but I didn't listen to my body," he said. "I was actually dumb. My body was saying something's wrong, but I didn't listen. (I) kept trying to get ready for minicamp, and I actually made it worse."

He looked in the mirror and his eyes seemed yellow. "People were saying, 'You look yellow,' and I was saying, 'Thanks a lot,' " Didier said.

In the end, he might have worked himself into the hospital. He missed the minicamp completely, and was in the hospital five days with mononucleosis-hepatitis. At the hospital, he was told he might not be able to play for a year.

"That's what the medical book said, but I had a mild case," he said. "If you listen to what everyone says, you wouldn't have anybody playing. You can't let anything get you down."

He has been participating in all the Redskins' training camp running and passing drills, but because his spleen had been enlarged, doctors told him to refrain from contact until this Saturday because a hard hit could cause a rupture.

"He's right on schedule," said Rennie Simmons, who coaches the tight ends. "He's been looking very good. He's got his weight back and doesn't look like he's slowing down.

"Clint has had to work. He's been real dedicated ever since he signed. He works as hard as anybody we have. He's a real conscientious guy.

"He's anxious and we're anxious (for him to start contact drills)."

The Redskins are particularly eager to get Didier back playing full-contact because the tight end corps has been hit by a barrage of minor injuries that head trainer Bubba Tyer calls "tight-enditis." It's too early for any of the problems to be important, but there is such a shortage of tight ends for practices that Coach Joe Gibbs wonders who'll play in the Redskins' first preseason game, Saturday at Atlanta.

As for Didier, he should be able to adjust quickly once he is allowed to play with contact.

"He's been doing everything else but that," said Simmons. "But (contact) is what training camp's all about. He's got to have a couple of weeks to get used to it."

Didier has come back from physical problems before. Last year, in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Raiders, he broke his right leg. By the end of the season, he caught 30 passes for 350 yards and five touchdowns.

His talents are well-suited for the Redskins one-back offense. As the H-back, he can perform as both receiver and blocker.

"What he gives you is a downfield receiver as an H," Gibbs said. "He can go outside as a receiver or he can play inside as a blocker."

As a receiver, Didier is a big-play man. "He has great long-ball reactions," Gibbs said. "He's tall and he can see a ball deep and has the ability to come up with it."

When the situation calls for a blocker, Didier, 6 feet 5, 240 pounds, is big enough to handle it.

"I look back when I was a rookie," said Didier, the team's 12th round choice out of Portland State in 1981. "I didn't know where I was. I was confused all the time . . .

"Coming into this league, it was a long shot for me to even make the team, but I had work habits I was born and raised with on the farm. Nothing comes easy."

"I want to see how far I can go in pro football, and hopefully make the team better. I feel great now. I'm ready to go."