The Washington Redskins certainly aren't running George Rogers to death this season. Six yards on two carries Sunday against the New York Giants isn't exactly Rogers' version of a hard day's work, but, fact is, this is becoming a trend.

Lionel Vital, not Rogers, is the Redskins' leading rusher this season with 346 yards. Kelvin Bryant, not Rogers, is No. 2 at 307. Rogers is alone in third place with 306 yards, but Keith Griffin is on his heels, about 80 yards behind and gaining. The Rams held Rogers to 19 yards on 13 carries Nov. 28, and now this.

There are two schools of thought here. First, the Redskins routinely have fallen behind this season, which makes the pass more vital than the run. As a result, Rogers comes out of the game, and Bryant goes in.

"I don't think John Riggins used to play all the time, either," Rogers said yesterday. "Remember Joe Washington? So there was no way I could've played {Sunday}. We were down, 16-0. We had to put it in the air. How many times did we run it in the second half?"

(Answer: Eleven times, and eight runs came after the Redskins went ahead with 4:56 to go).

The second school of thought is that age -- Rogers turns 29 a week from today -- has caught him from behind. Don Breaux, the Redskins' running back coach, said yesterday that Rogers is in the latter part of his career and has "lost a step."

Rogers did not start Sunday against the Giants and, although Coach Joe Gibbs said it was because he wanted Bryant in there to get the ball outside, Rogers' 19-yard performance against the Rams obviously made the decision simpler.

"No," Breaux said when asked if Rogers had fallen into disfavor. "What has happened is this: George Rogers has lost a step, which happens to everyone. And then if you lose a step, you've got to rely on your quickness. And I think his quickness has been hampered somewhat -- in fairness to George -- by the three injuries he's had this year.

"George and I have talked about it. I just told him, 'Hey, I've seen you for three years now. I know your style of running.' I said, 'Hey, George. I think this is true of all good runners.' Instead of running a 4.6 or 4.7 {in the 40-yard dash}, eventually, they're going to run a 4.8."

Rogers is a slightly different player this season, whether it's because of age or because of a recurring toe injury. Breaux hinted yesterday that Rogers still might be bothered by a sore big toe, although Rogers says he's fine.

Apparently, something's wrong because Gibbs and Breaux stopped short of saying that Rogers is a definite starter this Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Because of Rogers' age and the constant pounding upon him, Breaux said: "You may not have the burst you once had, and you may not have as long runs as you once had. It doesn't mean you can't still be effective, though.

"You can still strive to have those great, great years, but -- being realistic -- you may have to settle for a little bit less by facing the facts."

And, apparently, Rogers has faced up.

"Yeah, I think I'm probably not as fast as when I first came in," he said yesterday. "But my quickness is still there, and that {a lost step} shouldn't have anything to do with my performance. I'm still pretty good, you know. My time will come."

Maybe Sunday. Trainer Bubba Tyer says Bryant has a mild strain of his hamstring and a moderate sprain of his ankle. He left Redskin Park and walked with a limp to his car. He carried an ice pack.

Tyer said if the injury list was out yesterday, Bryant would be "questionable" for Sunday's game.

Gibbs said Rogers still is appreciated. After the Redskins went ahead Sunday, though, Gibbs used Griffin instead of Rogers to run out the clock. Gibbs says he didn't want to bring Rogers off the bench cold.

One problem Rogers hasn't had this year has been fumbles. He hasn't fumbled in 199 straight carries.