For the Washington Redskins players, Mondays usually involve being sore. Win or lose, happy or sad, the day is one of bumps, bruises and aching bodies. Today, however, the only new ailments they're likely to be suffering are sunburn and writer's cramp.

Some 35 of the regular Redskins were picketing outside RFK Stadium yesterday, striking in hopes of getting a bigger piece of the National Football League pie. On a bright, cool day, they were joined by wives, girlfriends, a slew of members of other unions and fans who thought their cause was just. The Redskins spread out in front of RFK, met with fans, signed autographs and asked people to boycott the game being played inside the stadium. Many did.

Only 27,728 showed up to watch the replacement Redskins beat the substitute St. Louis Cardinals, 28-21. That meant there were 17,035 no-shows and about 28,000 empty seats in a stadium that had been sold out for 159 consecutive games.

"Half the people in there have never been to a Redskins game," guard R.C. Thielemann said of those who bought tickets after season ticket-holders returned theirs. "The other half are not real Redskins fans."

A few players and many more supporters -- who were waving placards from the NFL Players Association or their own union -- stood along the driveway leading the main entrance to the stadium. The replacement players had been bused into RFK in mid-morning, but union supporters and boycotting fans yelled at fans going into the stadium.

Richard Hight and his family weren't yelling, but they were supporting the players.

"Unfortunately, I don't have season tickets," Hight said. "But even if I did, I wouldn't go in. I'd rather go see a high school game than see these guys {replacements}. We just came to give a little support and get a few autographs."

During the game, when applause wafted out of RFK, some of the picketing fans booed the applause.

By game's end, most of the picketing players and their supporters had left. Fans exiting RFK had their own chant: "Stay on strike."

"It's heart-warming to see all these people out here," Redskins player representative Neal Olkewicz told the crowd at a rally during the game. "I keep hearing about teams that are supposedly going to cross the line. Well, no teams have crossed. And the Washington Redskins will be the last team to cross."

The striking Redskins met Saturday night to plan their picketing strategy, which amounted to spreading out "and going with the flow," as kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh said.

Also discussed at the meeting was the strike situation in general and the possibility of returning without a signed agreement. Apparently, there was no formal vote, but "everybody's ready to stay out," said Olkewicz. However, Dexter Manley, who has said he will decide today whether to cross the picket line, was not at the meeting.

Bob Woolf, Manley's Boston-based agent, said last night Manley told him he would call Woolf before making any decision. "And he hasn't called me," Woolf said. "I don't anticipate Dexter will do anything {regarding crossing the picket line}."

The consensus seemed to be that returning without a signed agreement was not a good idea.

"We don't feel like this is the time to talk about that," linebacker Rich Milot said. "That would be playing into their hands."

"It's not like we raised hands, yes or no," said kicker Jess Atkinson, who, because of a dislocated ankle, sat in a folding chair. "It was more like everyone looked around and shook their heads no. I could not see going in without a negotiated contract. We're striking to just to get a better contract. If we go back with no contract, the strike will have been a waste."

The 28 player representatives will meet in Chicago tonight, and one topic of discussion will be removing free agency as a demand.

"The owners keep saying free agency is the holdup," Thielemann said. "Well, if we come off that, we'll have to see what they give us. If they give us nothing, it will show that they are doing nothing but trying to bust the union. If they didn't do anything, it would seem like something that would have to be dealt with in the courts."

Justine Thielemann was with her husband on the picket line and said it was one of the most depressing yet exhilarating days of her life.

"I would tell them that they're not seeing the real Redskins," she said late in the afternoon. "They would say things like, 'We don't make $80,000 a week.' I said we don't, either. Others told me to shut up and get a job. There were sexual suggestions and a few similar gestures . . .

"It was depressing knowing someone was in there taking my husband's place, but, on the other hand, it was an exhilarating experience because we were exercising our rights. We aren't apathetic about this and we've gotten up and done something."

Markus Koch grew up in Kitchener, Ontario. There he had his only previous experience with strikes and pickets.

"Dare Cookies struck in '73 or '74," Koch said with a chuckle. "It was big. They broke windows."

Koch didn't say how long Kitchener had to go without cookies.

One union member/fan came up and asked Haji-Sheikh for an autograph. He offered to trade his union cap for Haji-Sheikh's NFLPA cap.

"Sorry," said Haji-Sheikh. "This is the uniform of the day."