In the aftermath of the NFL players' strike, it figured that most teams, even those sitting pretty like the Washington Redskins, would take a week or two to adjust to playing again. Injuries, position changes and hurt feelings were all expected to be part of the story.

At Redskin Park, position changes and hurt feelings surfaced the first day of practice. It took a second day for the injuries to pop up.

On Wednesday, tight end Joe Caravello and H-back Craig McEwen, both ex-replacement players, were penciled into the team's 45-man roster. Running back Kelvin Bryant, meanwhile, was all set to start his first game as a Redskin in place of George Rogers, who still is nursing a sore left big toe.

But yesterday, McEwen was demoted to third-team, behind veteran Terry Orr, and Caravello and Bryant incurred injuries that kept them out of part of practice and might affect their status for Sunday's game.

Coach Joe Gibbs didn't know how serious either injury was yesterday afternoon, but did refer to them as "a couple setbacks."

Caravello, a 270-pound blocker, who has been moving some veterans aside as he used to do members of the replacement team, aggravated a lower back sprain he suffered last week. Bryant had a "hamstring twinge," Gibbs said. He missed more practice time than Caravello. Each player's position coach hopes he will be fine by Sunday's 1 p.m. game with the New York Jets at RFK Stadium. But neither could say if they will be.

McEwen, meanwhile, apparently was the victim of coaches' second thoughts. One of the heroes of Washington's 13-7 victory over Dallas Monday night, McEwen played with the second team in Wednesday's practice. But almost as soon as that practice was over, Gibbs and tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said Orr, who suffered a severely bruised shoulder this summer, would get a chance to prove himself in the next practice. Orr, not McEwen, was working with the second team yesterday and appears to be the one who will back up H-back Clint Didier Sunday. If Caravello can't play, it is likely veteran Cliff Benson will replace him.

What all this means is that it's now conceivable no replacement players will be on the roster for Sunday's game. However, it could all change by today. Because the team must activate the 45 players it will use Sunday by 4 p.m. Saturday, Gibbs has quite a few choices. In many ways, it's like picking a team all over again. He did say there is a chance another replacement player could be activated, perhaps at punt returner, wide receiver or in the offensive line. The possibilities include wide receivers/punt returners Derrick Shepard and Ted Wilson, wide receiver Anthony Allen and offensive linemen Eric Coyle, Darrick Brilz and Mark Carlson.

When the 45-man roster is picked, most of the Redskins veterans injured before the strike are expected to be on it. Offensive tackle Mark May (knee) and Didier (hamstring) are expected to start, while middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz (knee) said he thinks he will be activated but won't start. The only starter in question on injured reserve is Rogers, who looked better practicing yesterday than Wednesday, but still is a concern in the coaches' minds. If Bryant's injury, the latest in a long line of minor problems for the running back, prevents him from playing and Rogers can't play either, Keith Griffin will start, Gibbs said.

Were it not for the injuries, the team hardly would have a complaint about how it has emerged from the strike. To be sure, everything is not rosy for the players, who lost money, their patience and, in some cases, their jobs to the strike. But, in the standings and on the roster, the Redskins have come out of this strike much better than they went into it.

"If you're counting it up in the debits and credits column, boy, we really reaped the benefits of this strike as a team," said kicker Jess Atkinson, the only Redskin whose pre-strike injury (dislocated left ankle) is still far from healthy.

"We've gotten healthy, the coaches found some good players and we're still together as a team because no one crossed the line," he said. "What could be better than that?"

In case anyone has forgotten, the Redskins started the strike as a .500 team being unraveled by injuries. They defeated Philadelphia, 34-24, in the first game but lost quarterback Jay Schroeder, Atkinson and Rogers to injuries during the game. Didier, Olkewicz, May and defensive end Dexter Manley (knee) missed the game because of previous injuries.

All but Manley missed the second game, Washington's 21-20 upset loss to Atlanta. And, in that game, linebacker Rich Milot (infected elbow), offensive tackle Joe Jacoby (strained back) and defensive tackle Darryl Grant (pulled calf muscle) were injured and played sparingly.

Center Jeff Bostic's three bad kick snaps were one of the biggest issues of that game. Gibbs has decided Grant will snap on placement kicks against the Jets; Bostic will snap on punts. Bostic was handling both duties before the strike.

That issue carried over. The 1-1 record did not. It's 4-1 now. The replacements put the Redskins in first place in the NFC East. Because the replacements won all three games, and because the returning team now is essentially healthy, the veterans are under pressure to keep winning.

"The replacement guys kept them in position," said Gibbs. "Now our team can win or lose it. They have a chance to win {the division} on their own."

Said guard R.C. Thielemann: "We better win or we'll be ridden out of town by the fans. I can hear it now at RFK Stadium, 'Bring back the replacements!' The average fan looks at the won-loss record. They were 3-0. We're 1-1. We better win."