CHICAGO, JAN. 9 -- Quarterback Jim McMahon was running sprints without much hamstring pain today, which should ease Coach Mike Ditka's headache pain.

Ditka was concerned that McMahon's hamstring injury would limit his mobility for Sunday's NFC semifinal against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Apparently, that's no longer the case.

"Mad Mac's back, so that'll take a lot of pressure off me," running back Walter Payton said. "Because you never know what he'll do."

Bears tackle Jim Covert is responsible for keeping Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley off McMahon's case, and Covert held Manley to no sacks and two tackles in last year's playoff game.

Speaking of Manley, his verbal bout with Ditka isn't over. Earlier this week, Manley supposedly called Ditka a "bum," though Manley denied it. Ditka responded by saying Manley had the "IQ of a grapefruit." Then, Manley said in an interview with WJLA-TV-7 in Washington that "If my old buddy Mike's over there, he could be like Barry Switzer." (The Oklahoma coach recently was hit on the sidelines by a player and suffered an injured knee.)

Ditka responded on his weekly television show on WBBM-TV, saying, "That would be a great tendency for him, because his tendency isn't to get past the line of scrimmage lately."

Manley also said he'd bring Ditka a box of grapefruits, to which Ditka responded: "How many is in a box? Twelve? That's about his IQ."

Center Kept on Active List

The Bears kept center Mark Rodenhauser (sore shoulder) on their active roster today. Originally, Rodenhauser, who snaps on punts and place kicks, was questionable, which meant the Bears would have had to use new snappers.

Also, the team deactivated running back Neal Anderson, their leading rusher (586 yards) and receiver (47 catches). Anderson has a sore knee, but says he could be back for the NFC championship game if the Bears advance. . . .

Wide receiver Willie Gault -- a world class sprinter -- not only will return kickoffs, but also will play on kickoff coverage as a safety.