Washington Redskins rookie defensive tackle Dean Hamel trudged out of Redskin Park yesterday a little confused -- a sudden starter, an opportunist and a sympathetic friend rolled into one.

In pro football, such a personality mix occurs with the regularity of ligament damage, which is to say, it happens all the time.

"I hate to win a job this way," Hamel said. "I wanted this, but I hate it, too."

Several hours later, five-year veteran tackle Darryl Grant, who tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the Redskins' 14-7 victory over Cleveland on Sunday, underwent surgery at Arlington Hospital. He is out for the season.

Hamel, the team's 12th-round draft pick and the 309th player chosen overall last spring, will replace him on the right side of the Washington defensive line Sunday when the Redskins (4-4) play at Atlanta (1-7).

"The kind of kid he is -- so hyper and aggressive -- I think he'll do fine," said General Manager Bobby Beathard. "He'll probably end up making mistakes like rookies make, but he'll get better and better."

To replace Hamel on the bench, the Redskins plan to activate defensive end Steve Hamilton, who has been on injured reserve since Sept. 3 with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder.

Hamilton, who said he has been ready to play for a couple of weeks, is a second-year player who spent all of last season on injured reserve. He is considered most valuable on special teams and in pass-rushing situations.

That move, which likely will be made Friday or Saturday, still leaves a lack of depth at tackle.

Veteran Tom Beasley, who did not play at Cleveland because of a groin pull, is expected to take it easy at practice this week but will be ready by this weekend, defensive line coach Torgy Torgeson said.

Beasley, who plays end and tackle, will concentrate on the tackle spot now, Torgeson said.

Ironically, last week, the Redskins considered putting Beasley on injured reserve for a minimum of four weeks and activating Hamilton to replace him. In the wake of Grant's injury, Coach Joe Gibbs just shook his head.

"It's very fortunate we didn't make that move," Gibbs said yesterday.

As it was, Torgeson said if there had been another injury in Cleveland, the Redskins probably would have gone to a 3-4 defense instead of using Beasley.

Offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, who reinjured his sprained right knee, is expected to wear a splint on his leg for the next 10 days to two weeks and is likely to miss both the Atlanta and Dallas (Nov. 10) games.

"For Joe, it's probably two weeks, although it could be longer," Beathard said. "Whatever happens in the first two weeks will affect that third week."

When Jacoby, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound all-pro, first was injured, guard Russ Grimm replaced him at tackle as center Jeff Bostic moved to guard.

In Cleveland, the change was simpler: first-year tackle Dan McQuaid (6-foot-7, 278 pounds) took over.

For at least the time being, the Redskins will continue with McQuaid, who has what they call a "linear" build: i.e., thin for his height.

"I'll tell you," Beathard said, "McQuaid did well."

The Redskins are not now considering placing Jacoby on injured reserve. They would rather go short on the offensive line for the next couple of weeks and wait and see what happens with Jacoby and guard R.C. Thielemann, on injured reserve with a torn ligament in his right knee.

Not that it will be easy. "These are really tough people to lose," Beathard said.

Add linebacker Monte Coleman to the list of those still out. After discussions with the coaches yesterday morning, Coleman (right hamstring strain) is not likely to be activated this week. Coleman was set to return last week but reinjured the hamstring in practice.

"Our thinking now is that Monte will not be able to come back this week," special teams coach Wayne Sevier said.

If Coleman does return, it's likely linebacker Chris Keating will be released again. But Keating is the back-up snapper to Bostic now that Grant is out, which creates even more problems for the Redskins.

So, Sevier said, this week McQuaid will work on snapping, just in case.

On another special teams matter, Sevier said he did not "anticipate (punter) Jeff Hayes coming back this year."

Hayes partially tore his right quadriceps (thigh muscle) kicking off against the Chicago Bears last month and is eligible to return from injured reserve this week. There are two reasons he won't: the Redskins are happy with his replacement, Steve Cox, and they don't want to risk a more permanent injury to Hayes' kicking leg.

"If he doesn't come back this season, he won't have to kick off until training camp next year, which means he buys another six months to get the leg healthy," Sevier said.

"We don't want Jeff's injury to become career-ending because we didn't have the patience to wait . . . But we're still not certain what will happen."

Hayes is expected to begin running at practice soon.

In what Gibbs called a "must game" in Cleveland, another strange twist developed in the curious decline of wide receiver Calvin Muhammad. He didn't play receiver, but he did cover kickoffs on the special teams.

"Calvin wasn't contributing in another area right now," Beathard said, by way of explanation. "With his speed, it seemed logical he could play the safety position (on kickoffs)."

Beathard also said that receiver Malcolm Barnwell has lost about nine pounds since the season began and is down to 181 pounds, an acceptable playing weight.

Barnwell and Muhammad, both obtained in trades from the Los Angeles Raiders, have had disappointing seasons so far, catching just three and eight passes, respectively.