For the first time in a month, defensive end Dexter Manley yesterday appeared in his jersey and pads and practiced for the Washington Redskins. He "surprised" Coach Joe Gibbs with how much he could do and just might receive spot duty on passing downs against the Philadelphia Eagles in RFK Stadium Sunday afternoon.

For the first time, the Redskins say they are considering starting running back Kelvin Bryant if George Rogers can't start because of his sprained left big toe. Coach Joe Gibbs said he "is not counting on" Rogers starting, but hedged by saying he is "hoping" Rogers can start. Running backs coach Don Breaux said that if Rogers can't start, he believes Keith Griffin and Bryant have an equal shot at starting. Three days ago, Gibbs said Griffin would start if Rogers could not.

In both cases, along the defensive line and at running back, Gibbs said it's simply too early to tell what will happen.

The same thing goes for right cornerback. The most hotly contested position in training camp, it's still up for grabs because of Tim Morrison's bruised right calf and ankle. He practiced just "a little bit," said assistant coach Emmitt Thomas. If he can't start, Barry Wilburn will, Gibbs said, and top draft choice Brian Davis will play more than expected.

Yesterday was the Redskins' first practice of the week, the initial indication of who will be able to play how much in the first game of the regular season. Obviously, very little was settled. And Gibbs added intrigue when he closed practice to the media, something he rarely does.

"I want to spend a week or so just kind of by ourselves, without everybody around," Gibbs said. "I've done it before. When I open it, there's all kinds of problems."

He was asked if the Redskins were putting in secret plays.

"There are some things you're doing," Gibbs said. "For the opener, you always have some things. Philadelphia I'm sure has got some and we've got some."

The Redskins' biggest secrets are contained in the injured toe, knee and ankle of Rogers, Manley and Morrison, respectively.

Manley "definitely" won't start, Gibbs said, but the Redskins are saying little else about their top pass rusher, who partially tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in a scrimmage Aug. 8.

"We'll just have to see how he feels about rushing the passer, playing in those downs," Gibbs said. "Dexter took quite a bit of work. I was surprised. He jumped in quite a bit of the stuff and even took some team work."

Defensive line coach Torgy Torgeson said it's a "possibility" Manley will play in pass-rushing situations. "Now we'll see how he feels {Thursday}."

Manley, who is not speaking to the press, certainly wants to play Sunday. Last season, the Eagles had the most porous offensive line in NFL history. They gave up 104 sacks, the most ever by one team in a season. And the offensive line doesn't appear to have improved. Against the Detroit Lions' unimposing defensive front last week, the Eagles gave up seven sacks for 64 lost yards. During the entire preseason, the Eagles gave up 17 sacks for 122 yards. How bad is that? The Redskins suffered only five sacks for 28 yards in their preseason games.

A year ago in last season's opener against the Eagles, Manley had only one sack but caused opposing tackle Tom Jelesky to commit four penalties for 40 yards.

Rogers, who is showing off a new haircut with shaved stripes over both ears, didn't practice as much as he had planned because the team worked out on Redskin Park's artificial turf, not its grass field. The grass was too wet to play on. Breaux said Rogers became "real discouraged" when he discovered practice was going to be on the harder, less-kind-to-injured-toes artificial turf.

"Hopefully I'll be ready," Rogers said before practice. "I've been out a long time. I'll probably know by the end of the week. I haven't run at full speed yet."

Rogers said his toe, originally injured Aug. 4 and reinjured Aug. 29 after four carries at Tampa Bay, is "about 85 percent" healthy. "It's not well, that's for sure. It's better."

He said he was 85 percent healthy right before he played in that Tampa Bay game. He knows he could get injured again, but this time said he would keep on playing.

"It's time to play," he said. "I've got to go now. I can't be worrying about it now. It's too late. If I hurt it now, I just have to let it heal during the week and be ready to go again next time."

Whether Rogers, Bryant or Griffin starts, one thing is clear: rookie Timmy Smith will not.

"I think Timmy's ready to go," Gibbs said. "I just think first go-round, first regular season game and the crowd in the stadium and everything, I'd rather have him come off the bench the first time."

As for Bryant, Gibbs said: "We're going to look at him. We're going to let Kelvin take as much as he can take. And the question is, how much can he take of all the passing and running? I wouldn't rule him out playing a lot of the game . . .

"I'm not afraid to start Kelvin."