The surprise guest at yesterday's Washington Redskins practice was Jess Atkinson, who brought his kicking shoe.

Last seen seven weeks ago, Atkinson had a whole goalpost to himself yesterday and made three of four field goals from 30-plus yards.

It was his first kicking session since he dislocated his left, nonkicking ankle Sept. 13 in the season opener, and he plans to be back for the regular season closer.

"What's my goal for coming back? Oh boy, anywhere from the Giants game {Nov. 29} to the Cowboys {Dec. 13}," said Atkinson, who kicked a 38-yarder yesterday.

"But what I've kind of learned is you don't want to shoot for a game. What you kind of want to do is say, 'I wanna play when I'm kicking well.' But, hey, if you'd come out here and told me -- even when I was in the locker room -- that I'd be putting one through from 38 yards or even hitting 'em from 30, I'd have said no way."

Atkinson, who originally wasn't going to be able to kick for eight weeks, has made it back in 7 1/2.

The news wasn't so cheery for wide receiver Gary Clark, who also had an entire field to himself yesterday. Clark (sore knee and hamstring) jogged while, on another field, the regular Redskins offense prepared for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Coach Joe Gibbs will decide today whether to bring Clark to Philadelphia. Waiting in the wings is former replacement receiver Anthony Allen, who will be activated if Clark can't play.

Gibbs also will decide today on the status of middle linebacker Rich Milot, who returned to practice yesterday but did not drill with the first-team defense. Neal Olkewicz was there in his place.

Assuming Clark doesn't play and Allen does, it might seem to be a demotion for Clarence Verdin, who originally had been ahead of Allen on the Redskins depth chart.

It will be Allen instead of Verdin because Verdin still is on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury. If the Redskins were to bring Verdin off injured reserve, they would have to release someone to make room on the roster. But Allen is on the five-man taxi squad, so he can be activated for free.

Gibbs met privately with Verdin yesterday to tell him of the circumstances. Verdin, known to teammates as "CNN" because he talks 24 hours a day, was chirping as usual late yesterday afternoon.

For Allen, playing against the Eagles would be a vindication of sorts. He hesitated joining the Redskins replacement team back in September because he thought management was using the subs as "pawns." And even after he did sign and set a club record with seven catches for 255 yards against the Cardinals, he felt he was being used.

But, in a sense, he has used the Redskins back. Cut by the Atlanta Falcons, the strike gave him another opportunity at the NFL.

"This was my original plan," he said yesterday, "To land here or somewhere else after the strike."

Replacement quarterback Ed Rubbert, who's on the injured list because of a sore shoulder, was grinning ear-to-ear when he heard of Allen's possible promotion -- partly because these replacement guys stick together and partly because it was Rubbert who threw the passes that made Allen famous.

"Listen, Anthony has good moves, good hands, everything you'd ever want in a receiver," Rubbert said.

"We think he's an NFL receiver or we wouldn't have kept him," Gibbs said.

And Joe Caravello is an NFL tight end. Caravello, another former replacement player, will be activated today to play in short yardage situations and as a backup to starter Don Warren. Because he's 268 pounds, Carvello fits perfectly into the Redskins' "jumbo" package, which is when they insert their largest, toughest people to block near the goal line.

Ever since tight end Anthony Jones tore up his knee against Denver last season, the Redskins have been searching for a "thug-like" tight end. General Manager Bobby Beathard tried and failed to find one during the NFL draft.

But offensive assistant Dan Henning had Caravello with the Falcons last season, and remembered that he'd played fullback at Tulane University. Henning told Gibbs, who told Beathard, who signed Caravello.

Most of his Redskins teammates consider Caravello as coming from the mold of Giants tight end Mark Bavaro because he only speaks when spoken to and likes to carry defenders on his back.

"Yeah, he's in that Bavaro-mold," said replacement teammate Craig McEwen. "He's the Neanderthal-type."

Gibbs: "He hasn't said anything to me, unless, of course, I say something to him."

Caravello: "I just don't know anybody yet."

Meanwhile, everyone knows Atkinson, the popular Redskin who was carried off on a stretcher back in September. All this week, he'd been begging trainer Keoki Kamau to let him kick, and Kamau kept saying no. But when Atkinson jokingly jumped on the trainer's table yesterday and said: "Tape me," Kamau taped him and took him outside.

"We're real fortunate with his injury," Gibbs said. "The doctor told me that was kind of a one-in-a-thousand thing, to dislocate your ankle and not tear the ligaments up. I'm glad he's able to get out there. That's great. That's unbelievable."