Quarterback Joe Theismann already has failed his physical examination and will retire or be placed on waivers by the Washington Redskins, perhaps as soon as Friday, according to sources in the organization.

Theismann and team owner Jack Kent Cooke are expected to meet Friday to discuss and decide how and when Theismann formally will leave the Redskins, the sources said.

It's likely an announcement will be made Friday. Speaking on a radio show this morning on WAVA-FM in Washington, Theismann said he expected the Redskins "would make an announcement Friday ."

"The team will make the first move," he said.

Redskins officials declined to elaborate, and Theismann could not be reached for comment today.

"I can't tell you anything," Coach Joe Gibbs said after practice at Dickinson College. "We're just waiting for everything to finish up. . . . I think they're meeting and working it out."

Cooke, reached at his Middleburg, Va., estate, said, "There's plenty of time for Joe to make a decision and we will give him that time."

As soon as he retires or is waived, Theismann is expected to announce he is joining CBS-TV as a pro football analyst this fall. A source at CBS said the network hopes to announce its pairings of play-by-play announcers and analysts next week.

Theismann met with CBS Sports President Peter Lund and executive sports producer Ted Shaker last Friday, presumably to discuss his plans for this fall.

"If Theismann doesn't pass his physical, I fully expect him to be here," the CBS source said today.

The physical, which apparently was nothing more than an examination of his broken right leg and X-rays of the leg, occurred some time in the past week and was kept secret, team sources said.

At a news conference last week, Gibbs said he expected Theismann, 36, to take his physical this weekend, when the veterans report to camp. But Gibbs later seemed uncertain about the date or site.

Speculation on reasons for the uncertainty surrounding Theismann's physical and the announcement of his future plans focuses on his $1.4 million insurance policy with Lloyd's of London that he took out two years ago to cover a career-ending injury.

It is believed that in order to obtain his money, Theismann must go to great lengths to prove he has attempted a comeback before leaving the game. He has received several medical opinions, all apparently saying he cannot play football now. Sources have said Theismann needs the opinions of at least three doctors before he can file a claim for the money.

Lloyd's of London also is expected to appoint a doctor to examine Theismann's leg, broken on a sack by New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor last Nov. 18.

On the radio show, during which he appeared with fiance Cathy Lee Crosby, Theismann said he "realistically probably can't even play this year." He said the earliest he could even "test" his leg would be October.

He left open the possibility of coming back next season, saying he would like to stay with the Redskins, a statement that again appears to be aimed at Lloyd's of London officials.

In May, when he missed the Redskins' minicamp, Theismann was asked if he could sit out this season and come back in 1987.

"You ask Tony Peters that question," Theismann responded, referring to the now-retired Redskins safety whose play never returned to all-pro form after he missed the 1983 season because of drug-related problems.

Theismann continued: "At age 37?" He will turn 37 Sept. 9.

Immediately after he was injured, team doctor Charles Jackson said he thought Theismann might be able to begin playing football again in May.

Although Jackson continued to call Theismann's recovery "remarkable," it soon became clear he would require quite a bit more time to return to the game. In fact, Gibbs said last week that "most doctors" would have predicted an 18-month recovery period for Theismann, which would mean May 1987.

It is believed team medical officials took several things into account when refusing to pass Theismann on his physical. Although the outside of the tibia and fibula bones has mended well, the inside apparently still is not strong enough to withstand the pressure of playing football.

Theismann has not been able to practice or play football, or almost any other sport, for that matter.

Theismann's right leg now is one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch shorter than his left leg, requiring him to wear a pad in his shoe. This is not expected to seriously affect his mobility, but it is a slight concern.

Jackson could not be reached for comment tonight.

Theismann's and the Redskins' decision is expected this weekend because of economic considerations. If Theismann's name is not off the roster by Monday, he begins drawing his salary, which is sizable.

His contract calls for a base salary of between $500,000 and $650,000 for this season and he would have received a bonus of more than $600,000 if he had been on the active roster all season. The combined total of about $1.2 million would have made him the highest-paid player in the National Football League.

Theismann also received a signing bonus of more than $1 million, which is his to keep.

It's not merely a matter of semantics whether Theismann retires or is waived. If he retires, it appears as if he is making the decision, which presumably could weaken his claim when he files for his insurance money.

If he is waived, it would appear that the Redskins were making the decision, which likely could strengthen his insurance claim. Theismann also would receive $65,000 in injury protection money if he is waived.

The Redskins apparently would like Theismann to retire, which would allow them to turn a news conference announcing the retirement into a celebration of Theismann's 12-year Washington career, including the organization's only Super Bowl victory, in the 1982 season.

In March, the Redskins were stung when veteran John Riggins refused to retire and was placed on waivers, creating a public relations nightmare.

Theismann was in the middle of what he said was his "worst" season when he was injured. His replacement, 25-year-old Jay Schroeder, led the 10-6 Redskins to a 5-1 finish and became the team's No. 1 quarterback.

Sensing his Washington career was over, Theismann, the team's all-time career leader in passing yards, tried to make a trade for himself last March but found little or no interest. He then said he would try to return to the Redskins.