Although his recovery from a broken leg is about two weeks ahead of schedule, Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said yesterday he does not know what the team "has in store" for him in 1986.
"My biggest challenge has nothing to do with football," he said in a telephone interview from his home in Leesburg. "It's related to football, but all it really involves is getting myself in the best physical condition I can."
Asked if he was planning to be in a Redskins uniform next September, he answered: "I am planning on being able to walk and run on two good legs. What happens after that, who knows?"
Theismann, 36, suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg when he was sacked during the Redskins' game with the New York Giants Nov. 18. He was replaced by second-year player Jay Schroeder.
Uncharacteristically, Theismann did not mention a prospective return to the Redskins during the 10-minute interview.
Things were different the last time he spoke publicly about his recovery.
Five days after the injury, at a hospital news conference, he said: "This will probably be the first time in 15 years of football that I'll be anxious to go to minicamp."
His comments yesterday also were more subdued than his advertisement for Health and Tennis Corporation of America that appeared in Sports Illustrated and some newspapers this week.
In the ads, he is pictured in uniform, with an arm resting on his knee. The copy reads, in part: "They're dead wrong. After 16 years in this game, I know one thing for sure. The critics don't know anything. Nobody tells me when my career is over. My doctors may mumble. The competition may hope. But I'll decide . . . "
He said he was not trying to send a message to anyone in the Redskins organization.
"I've been working for them for three or four years," he said of the health corporation. "It was their idea, not mine. But if you look at the ad, it is a belief of mine that a lot of critics don't think I'll be back."
Last month, after the Redskins finished their 10-6 season, Coach Joe Gibbs said Schroeder, 24, deserved a chance to be the team's No. 1 quarterback. The Redskins were 5-5 under Theismann and 5-1 under Schroeder.
Gibbs' comments came as somewhat of a surprise, considering his tremendous loyalty to Theismann during his five years as head coach. But Theismann said he had not read about what Gibbs said.
"I don't know about it, and I'm not going to read between the lines," he said.
Asked if he would be able to be the team's No. 2 quarterback behind Schroeder, Theismann -- who has started for the Redskins since 1978 -- said, "My competition is with no one but myself."
Neither Gibbs nor General Manager Bobby Beathard could be reached for comment yesterday in Mobile, Ala., where they are scouting players in the Senior Bowl.
Owner Jack Kent Cooke said he gave Theismann "immeasurable credit for his desire to return."
Theismann said he is "encouraged" about his rehabilitation, and, according to Dr. Charles Jackson, the Redskins' team doctor, there's good reason for that.
"He has made a remarkable recovery," Jackson said yesterday. "I'm very pleased."
Jackson said he did not want to discuss specifics of Theismann's case until he meets with his patient in the near future.
Theismann was expected to be in a cast for three months but appears to be ahead of schedule by at least two weeks.
He said he hopes to have his short cast off within 10 days to two weeks, which is well before the original mid-February estimates.
He then will begin wearing a brace on his leg, he said.
Right after the injury, Jackson said Theismann would require another three months once the cast was removed to get his leg in shape.
There has been no word if that prognosis has been changed.
"I feel good about my progress," Theismann said. "I'm encouraged to get the cast off. The natural tendency is to say, 'Geez, the cast is off, now I can go climb a mountain.'
"Well, I still have a long way to go."