More defections yesterday among the striking St. Louis Cardinals have given the Washington Redskins the dubious distinction of playing one of the NFL teams with the most nonstriking regulars on its roster this weekend.

Nine more veteran Cardinals crossed the picket line yesterday, bringing to 14 the number of veterans who have decided to come back to the team. The New Orleans Saints also have had 14 players cross the line.

Included in the group of Cardinals expected to play Sunday at 1 p.m. at RFK Stadium are wide receivers Roy Green, J.T. Smith and Troy Johnson, fullback Earl Ferrell, guard Lance Smith, defensive end Curtis Greer, linebacker E.J. Junior, strong safety Leonard Smith, kick returners Vai Sikahema and Derrick McAdoo and special teams player Broderick Sargent.

The other three St. Louis players who returned are on injured reserve: defensive tackle Mark Garalczyk (who originally crossed the picket line last week), wide receiver Adrian McBride and linebacker Jeff Paine.

Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said the news of the defections in St. Louis was not good for his replacement team, but he refused to say how the imbalance would affect the game, or if it made the contest between two 1-1 NFC East teams unfair.

All the striking Redskins are still honoring the picket line, although defensive end Dexter Manley said he plans to "make a decision Monday" about coming back to work. Yesterday was the last day players could come in and still be able to play in Sunday's game.

"I told our {nonunion} players it looks like maybe we'll be playing against most of the St. Louis team," Gibbs said after practice yesterday afternoon at Redskin Park.

"This is something that's never happened before in football. This could be one of the great challenges in sports. It's probably one of the bigger underdog situations I've ever been involved in.

"We've worked hard and done about all that we could do. This is going to make a tough situation for us. We'll just do the best that we can. Sometimes you're confronted with real challenges. This team's got one on Sunday."

The Redskins were heartened by the absence of one name from the Cardinals' list of nonstriking players, that of veteran quarterback Neil Lomax. The Cardinals are expected to start rookie quarterback Shawn Halloran of Boston College, with rookie Sammy Garza of Texas-El Paso playing behind him.

Green, J.T. Smith and Johnson are three of the team's top four receivers, but, without Lomax, the St. Louis passing attack probably is as suspect as almost any other replacement team's passing game.

"It takes time for any unit to flow together," said Eric Wilson, the Redskins' nonunion middle linebacker. "Their quarterback has been practicing 10 days, just like we have. You really can't put a lot in in that amount of time.

"If Lomax were playing with Roy Green, that would sure be a difference. They've been playing together for a long time. They've got their timing down."

Striking Redskins quarterback Babe Laufenberg called news of the Cardinals' defections "shocking."

"I can't believe that," he said. "If they had three players in, that really wouldn't make a difference. But you're talking about a third of a team. It's a significant amount, especially because we have none."

Striking running back Keith Griffin said it's difficult to root for the nonunion Redskins, but now, it's also hard to root against them.

"I'm not going to say I'm for them or against them," Griffin said. "I don't want them to do good, but they're saying the games count, so you're caught in between."

Laufenberg said he doesn't think the nonunion games will end up counting in the standings, even though the owners have said they will. "To count them would be to set pro football back light years," he said.

"I really can't see Jack Kent Cooke going into the owners' meeting and voting to count this game. I just can't see counting a game where we have no players there and they have 14. Maybe we ought to draw 14 straws and send 14 guys in at the right positions to match up against their guys."

On a more serious note, Laufenberg called the defections "kind of a sad indictment of our union.

"We have guys on our team that are not too happy about being out on strike, but if you've got a union and you're in it, we feel you should support it. When you see other guys going in, backstabbing and fighting, I'm really happy to be on a team like the Redskins."

Gibbs said he thought players who just crossed the picket line "could be ready to play in an hour." Game plans obviously are quite elementary for the first nonunion games.

"I'm sure we'll see {the Cardinals veterans} go in right from the start," Gibbs said.

Throughout the players' strike, Gibbs has been stuck right in the middle. There was no time that was more evident than yesterday.

"I think the real tough thing for me is what's at stake in this game," Gibbs said. "As a coach, you want to win this game. Someway, we've got to find a way to get this done against real tall odds."