When Danny Burmeister, the Washington Redskins' new free safety, walked up to his locker at Redskin Park and saw a jersey with the number 22 on it, he took a step backward in surprise.

"The first thing I thought about when I saw it hanging in my locker was, 'That's Curtis Jordan's number,' " he said.

It was Jordan's number until two weeks ago, when he was cut. For the first two weeks of the season, it belonged to no one. Now, it's Burmeister's, for who knows how long.

Burmeister, who grew up near Redskin Park, started for a year at North Carolina and was a free agent with the team in training camp this summer until he was cut early on, is playing pro football "under the weirdest circumstances possible," he said yesterday.

He is a Redskin because the real Redskins are on strike. He sympathizes with them, understands their point of view and will cheer for them when they return. But he also realizes being a replacement Redskin probably is his only chance to play professional football, to play in RFK Stadium, to wear a Redskins uniform.

For the first time yesterday, conversation, serious conversation, turned toward the Oct. 4 game between the new Redskins and the new St. Louis Cardinals at RFK Stadium. What once was scoffed at now is sounding somewhat plausible. Because negotiations between the owners and players don't seem to be going particularly well in Philadelphia, there very well could be a game here between two mystery teams playing the most basic form of the professional game.

"There will be a lot of mistakes," Burmeister said. "Both teams are in the same situation, so I don't think you will see a lopsided game. It won't be near the level {of true NFL games}, but it's above the college level. There's just too much talent in the game. There's enough talent to make two leagues, or whatever you want to think of us as."

Little is known about the replacement Redskins. Tidbits of information work their way out of the closed practices, two a day, that Coach Joe Gibbs and his staff are holding. For starters, the team is running the one-back offense. No surprise there. Don't ask who the one-back is yet. No depth chart or lineup has been issued, and it might be awhile before the outside world sees one.

There are 55 names on the roster but only 52 players practicing because of belated decisions, travel plans and the absence of wide receiver Richard Johnson, who may never show up. Offensive tackle Mark Carlson left yesterday, marking the team's fourth defection in two days. Another, linebacker Eugene Seale, was on the first roster but not the second because he says he isn't coming. But safety Skip Lane, offensive tackle Donny Tucker and center Mike Wooten were added yesterday, and perhaps a couple more players are expected today.

The players now are practicing in shoulder pads, but Gibbs does not anticipate full-fledged contact, except in isolated instances. There will be no scrimmages, because there are not enough bodies. The film sessions show tape of Redskins practices only; the Redskins have no film of the replacement Cardinals, of course. But they figure the defensive and offensive formations used by the real Cardinals will be used by the new players, so they are preparing their players for that.

Quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome said the team is installing a "small game plan.

"It's better to have 10 plays and run them great than to have 30 and not do well on them. Who knows what kind of defense they will play? They could blitz every play."

The team is treating these first few days of practice like a hurried minicamp. The Redskins must cut to their final 45-man roster by next Friday at 4 p.m., General Manager Bobby Beathard said.

At present, they have only two quarterbacks -- Tony Robinson and Jack Stanley. Robinson knows some of the Washington offensive system because he was playing for the semi-pro Richmond Ravens, who run an offense like the Redskins'. Gibbs said it was a "disappointment" to lose quarterback Ed Rubbert, who knew the offense better than anyone else on his new team, but he said the players appeared to "rally around" the two remaining quarterbacks.

"We seem to have banded together because of the circumstances," Burmeister said.

The Redskins were careful not to give any of their new players practice jersey numbers worn by the striking players. The coaches are saying they miss their players, but also say they see a "challenge" in coaching the new players. For many who were with the team in a training camp, it's not all that different.

"It seems to me that Torgy {Torgeson, the defensive line coach} is doing the same things he did in training camp," said defensive tackle Ted Karras.

Although there are pickets just beyond the fence, some things never change at Redskin Park. Gibbs said he is spending weeknights on his office couch. That's his routine during the season -- whether he is coaching all-pros or unknowns. Staff writer David Aldridge contributed to this report.