Coach Joe Gibbs made it official yesterday: His Washington Redskins no longer plan to use veteran George Rogers as the sole workhorse in their running game.

What you saw the Redskins do Sunday night in their 23-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins is what you're likely to get this week at Minnesota -- and into the playoffs.

Rookie Timmy Smith, who replaced Rogers on the Redskins' third possession Sunday, is going to continue to play at the discretion and whim of Gibbs and his coaching staff.

"George will be starting, just exactly as he always has, and we'll play Timmy in there some," Gibbs said yesterday at his Redskin Park news conference. "I felt very comfortable the other night that we seemed to have a pretty good rhythm there . . . We'll let {Rogers and Smith} take the running work."

Rogers started and gained 31 yards on his first five carries before fumbling. It was decided before the game that Smith would replace him in the third series, Gibbs said, adding it had nothing to do with the fumble. Smith played much of the second quarter, then Rogers and Smith alternated in the second half.

Rogers finished with 59 yards on 16 carries and Smith 46 yards on 11 carries. Passing-down back Kelvin Bryant gained 84 yards on nine carries as the regular Redskins rushed for more than 200 yards (204) for only the second time this season.

This is not an "experiment," Gibbs said. But details still need to be worked out. Gibbs was not precise on how Rogers and Smith will share time, and did not want to be held to the way they played at Miami, which was an alternating, time-sharing formula.

But, it seems likely Rogers, who has been bothered by injuries to his left big toe, right shoulder and groin this season, is going to be playing a reduced role with a team that once thought of him as a long-term heir apparent to John Riggins.

"Just however we feel like playing them, really," Gibbs said. "Whoever's hot will stay in there. Timmy will play whenever we feel like he ought to go in there. I am not going to sit here and try and tell you exactly when he's going in there . . . If George is hot, we might decide to keep him in the whole game. Likewise . . . we reserve the right to play whoever's hot."

Rogers said yesterday by telephone that he doesn't necessarily mind sharing time with Smith, but "it has to be a better system," he said.

"It was kind of confusing to me. After I fumbled, I came out. I wasn't certain if that was because I fumbled or because they wanted to get Timmy in."

Rogers said he had no further comment on the change.

"I think George just wants to win," Gibbs said. "Any time you have a guy who wants to play all the time and put somebody else in there to play some, I think it's going to be a negative. But I think George also wants to win. I told him what we were going to try to do early in the year, get Timmy in some.

"I think George is a team guy. I think he just wants to win. Does he want to carry the ball all the time? Yeah, I think he would rather carry it all the time."

In the past, Rogers has not hesitated to express his emotions about sharing time. When he was traded to the Redskins in 1985, he and Riggins shared the one-back spot most of the season. Rogers was beset by fumbling troubles that he said were caused by his lack of playing time. After Riggins was waived, Rogers became the Redskins' sole back -- until the U.S. Football League disbanded and Bryant joined the Redskins. Rogers and Bryant's roles seemed to be clearly delineated, although Bryant has been worked more and more into the running game.

Rogers, meanwhile, has continued to say that to be productive he needs to carry the ball often.

Obviously, the plan to use Smith would infringe on Rogers' number of carries.

"We're not experimenting," Gibbs said. "I'm trying to win this game with everything we've got. The last thing in the world I'm doing is experimenting. I'm just trying to get the best guys playing.

"We've got three guys. We've got three guys, and they all have different abilities. I felt pretty good using them the way we felt like . . . George and Timmy both seemed to respond. We had one of our best days rushing."

Gibbs gave kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh a vote of confidence after he missed a 38-yard field goal in the first half that could have made the difference in the game.

"Ali kicked off great for us," Gibbs said. "He probably had his best week kicking for us."

Haji-Sheikh has made 11 of 15 field goal attempts this season. Jess Atkinson, who dislocated his left ankle in the first game of the season, said he would be ready if the team needed him. He was signed to play the last game of last season and into the playoffs.

Gibbs said his disappointment was centered more on the team's inability to come up with a late turnover, especially an interception of quarterback Dan Marino, who threw for 393 yards and to wide receiver Mark Duper for three touchdowns.

"We have a couple things really haunting us right now, and the turnover ratio is one," Gibbs said. "We're having problems there."

The turnover ratio is minus-two. Last year it was minus-four; in 1985, minus-six. During the team's division-championship years of 1982, 1983 and 1984, it was plus-eight, plus-43 and plus-15, respectively.

"We had six balls in our hands and only got one of those {cornerback Barry Wilburn's league-leading eighth interception of the season}," Gibbs said.

Gibbs appeared disheartened by the fact that his team did what it wanted to do -- run against Miami -- and still lost the game.

"To run the ball the way we did, and to have the protection the way we had it {the offensive line gave up only one sack}, you don't normally lose those games," he said.

He said the failure of his two-minute prevent defense was "a discouragement."

On the injury front, Wilburn's ribs are bruised, and offensive tackle Mark May's neck hurts. Both are expected to be okay, Gibbs said.