Quarterback Joe Theismann said yesterday he wants to return to football because he "wants to play again," not because he will receive approximately $1.2 million if he is on the Washington Redskins' active roster all season.

"My incentive to play football is that I love the game," Theismann said. "Saying that money is my incentive is purely conjecture at this point."

Theismann would not comment on his new contract, which would make him the highest-paid player in the National Football League this season if he is on the active roster every game.

"All I know is that people were asking me for loans this morning," Theismann said.

In January, Theismann signed a two-year agreement with an option year that included a guaranteed signing bonus of more than $1 million, much of it deferred; a base salary between $500,000 and $650,000; and a bonus of more than $600,000 a year if he is on the active roster all season, according to a source familiar with the contract.

The sum of Theismann's base salary and roster bonus would exceed any other player's base salary and roster bonus, according to published figures.

Theismann, who is missing this week's minicamp at Redskin Park because his broken right leg still isn't ready, said he doesn't know what he will do this season. Three weeks ago, he said his rehabilitation was "80 percent" complete. Yesterday, he put his recovery at "85 percent."

"I'm getting closer to somewhere, but I don't know where," he said.

Theismann, who recently hired agent Bob Woolf to explore the possibility of his doing color commentary on CBS or NBC, said he must make a decision on returning or retiring this summer, probably "in July or August."

"I can't wait forever to make a decision," he said. "The Redskins have to move along. They can't wait for a decision. The networks have to move along. They can't wait for a decision.

"I'm prepared to deal with life after football. I'd like to get into the TV booth and stay with the game as an analyst. I'm fortunate I have had an opportunity to work for ABC in the Super Bowl in January 1985 . Working in television would allow me to stay close to the game I really love. In effect, I have a second profession to choose from."

Theismann was asked if he hired Woolf because he knows his football career is over.

"I can understand that would be a logical assumption, but I would prefer to clarify it," Theismann said. "I'm aware the networks are on a timetable. It would be foolish of me to think that in July or August, I could call them and say I was interested.

"What I'm doing right now is research, basically. I want to make an intelligent decision."

Theismann made early appearances at the Redskin Park weight room the past two days and departed before practice began. But even though he hasn't been around for minicamp, he hardly has been forgotten.

Jay Schroeder, who has been the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart since Theismann's injury last November, said he believes Theismann now "is realizing how bad he really did break his leg."

"When it first happened, I think he certainly thought he would be back," Schroeder said. "I think now he has realized, 'I really did do a number on my leg.' It's a tough thing. He is slowing down the pace now as far as when he will be able to return."

Schroeder, 24, said he wants the starting job but believes Theismann, 36, should get a chance to compete with him if he returns.

"I think everybody deserves a chance," Schroeder said. "The game is built around competition. All it's going to do is push him to be better and push me to be better."

Schroeder said if there is a quarterback battle, it should be resolved early.

"I don't know if it would be easier for me or Joe, but it would be better for the team," Schroeder said. "If it drags on too long, it would be harmful for the team."

If Schroeder is the starter, which most within the organization expect, what then becomes of Theismann? How would Schroeder deal with the situation?

"It's so hard to say," Schroeder said. "I admire him . . . . but you don't know how people react in backup situations. He could help me a great deal, but he's got to accept it, I've got to accept it, the coaches have got to accept it. I know this: He could help me very much."

Free agent linebacker Joe Krakoski hyperextended his left knee Monday and missed practice yesterday. He is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Thursday. . . . All veterans, even those who are unsigned, are expected to report for physicals today. The veterans begin practicing Thursday. . . . Offensive guard Raleigh McKenzie is working at tackle this week.