Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk, who still is walking with a slight limp due to a right knee injury, said yesterday it will be "hard" for him to be ready to play in the team's first playoff game, Jan. 9 or 10.

"Without ruling out playing, I would think it would be hard to {be ready}," Monk said. "It will be hard for me to come out {for practice} just a week before the game and go all out. There's a possibility I could play, but if I could, I probably wouldn't start and probably would play sparingly."

But Monk also said he has prepared himself to miss the rest of the season if his partially torn medial collateral ligament does not heal in time. He still has a five-degree bend when he attempts to straighten his leg, and has not yet tried to run.

"If I have to sit out and miss everything, I'm prepared for that," Monk said yesterday at Redskin Park in his first interview of the season. "When I got injured, the next day, I thought all about how this happened to me in 1982 and I missed the Super Bowl. I said, 'Here we go again.' But that was only one day, really. I now realize that's the nature of the game and I can deal with it."

Monk broke his foot in the final game of the 1982 season against St. Louis and missed the playoffs and the team's only Super Bowl victory. Monk suffered his knee injury in the Dec. 6 game in St. Louis.

For him, it was a dismal ending to a "disappointing" regular season.

"My season has not been very good," Monk said. "I'm real disappointed with the way I performed this year. But there's no use looking back and sulking about it. I just have to prepare myself for when I come back this year, if I come back this year."

Monk caught 38 passes for 483 yards in the regular season, third on the team behind Gary Clark (56 for 1,066 yards) and Kelvin Bryant (43 for 490). In his career, he has had 26 games with 100 or more yards, but he did not have one in 1987.

Statistically, it was the second-worst season of his career. In 1982, another strike season, he caught 35 passes for 447 yards. In 1982 and again in 1987, Monk played in just nine games.

But this season, he averaged just 12.7 yards per reception, the lowest of his career. Usually sure-handed, Monk dropped quite a few passes, including two in the end zone at the finish of a game with the Los Angeles Rams last month. If Monk had caught either one of Doug Williams' passes, the Redskins almost certainly would have won.

To take it one step further, one more victory this season would have guaranteed the Redskins a home playoff game next weekend. Now, they must travel to either San Francisco or Chicago.

Monk had two touchdown catches that day, but the two receptions that got away linger in his mind.

With 29 seconds to play against the Rams, down by four points, Williams threw a 14-yard pass to Monk over the middle in the end zone. Monk had split two defenders, but couldn't hold onto the ball as he was hit.

With 24 seconds left, Williams again threw in the end zone to Monk, who jumped, outstretched his hands, but couldn't hold onto the ball. This time, Los Angeles cornerback LeRoy Irvin intercepted the tipped pass and the game was over.

"The first one was deflected a little bit and it came off across my chest, although I still probably should have caught it," Monk said. "The second one was more catchable. I should have caught that one. I had my hands on it . . . That game was more noticeable simply because either would have been a game-winning catch. There were two in a row in the end zone. If they had been early in the game and someplace else on the field, there probably would not have been so much notoriety."

Monk is the Redskins' second all-time leading receiver in passes caught and yards gained. Only Hall of Fame member Charley Taylor has more. Monk holds the NFL record for most catches in a season with 106, set in 1984. He has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls, although he won't be going this winter. Now 30, he has been with the Redskins throughout the decade. His career has been marked by one success after another.

And now this. Monk cannot explain why he dropped more passes this season than anyone can remember in any other year.

"That's where my disappointment comes from," he said. "For some reason my concentration just wasn't there. Why, I can't tell you. I don't think it was lack of enthusiasm or lack of effort. I still practice hard. I'm still motivated to play. I still enjoy playing the game."

Monk had two touchdown catches in the opening game against Philadelphia, then another in Washington's loss at Atlanta.

Then came the strike, and a four-week break. When he returned, Monk said he just didn't feel the same.

"I don't want to use the strike as a reason, although I think it did disturb a lot of people," he said. "I think it affected me, too. A lot of emotional things happened during that period of time, things you didn't want to happen. A lot of people were unhappy. It was just a disruption. We started out well in our first two games, even though we lost to Atlanta. It just took away from the momentum I felt that I had, and when I came back, it just wasn't there the way it was before the season started."

The quarterback changes from Jay Schroeder to Williams and back were not the problem, Monk said.

"It really doesn't matter who's in there," he said. "They both throw the same type of balls. They both have strong arms. I don't think that makes a difference."

Perhaps Monk's greatest despair occurred late in a game at Philadelphia last month. Schroeder overthrew Monk deep on what looked like a certain touchdown. With an uncharacteristic flash of emotion, Monk kicked the ball into the stands.

"It was nothing against Jay at all," he said. "I told him that. It was just geared to the frustration of that day. But I've told myself not to dwell on these things. I've got to move on."

Redskins Notes:

Coach Joe Gibbs said he will announce the starting quarterback for the conference semifinal today. He also will say if he is going to replace kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh with Jess Atkinson, who suffered a dislocated ankle in the season opener.