Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that, if he had to guess, injured cornerback Darrell Green will play in the NFC championship game Sunday, but hobbled wide receiver Art Monk will not.

Gibbs was certain, however, who will start at running back against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium: veteran George Rogers, who gained just 13 yards on six carries in the Redskins' 21-17 upset of Chicago.

"I like the groove we're in right now," Gibbs said of the rotation among Rogers, Kelvin Bryant and Timmy Smith. Smith will not start, Gibbs said, despite leading the team with 66 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Green, who sprained rib cartilage hurdling Bears tight end Cap Boso on a 52-yard punt return for the winning touchdown, underwent X-rays that showed no fractures or "structural damage," Gibbs said.

He thinks Green will have to sit out the team's first practice for the Vikings Wednesday, but he hopes he will be back later in the week. Green said he did not know whether he could play. "I'll take it day to day," he said.

"An early guess is it's just strictly going to be a pain thing," Gibbs said at his Redskin Park news conference. "Normally on a pain thing, you've got to feel like, for a game like this, Darrell will be wanting to go."

If Green misses the game, rookie Brian Davis probably will replace him, Gibbs said. Davis replaced Green at Chicago and played "extremely well," allowing speedster Willie Gault to catch only one pass, albeit for 44 yards.

Davis, the team's top draft choice from Nebraska, intercepted Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon early in the second half and almost had another interception on the pass Gault caught.

"He flashes," Gibbs said of Davis. "He seems to be in the right place at the right time."

Green's injury "is very sore, very painful," head trainer Bubba Tyer said.

"He just jumped out of his ribs," Tyer said. "It'll be a heckuva lot better by the end of the week. I think he will be able to play. We'll know much more by the end of the week."

If Green's right rib cage still hurts this weekend, Tyer might fit him with padding or a flak jacket. No one knows how Green, who won the NFL's Fastest Man competition two years ago, will be affected by the pain or the padding. If he is well enough to play, he most likely will be assigned to cover Vikings wide receiver Anthony Carter, who caught 10 passes for 227 yards in Minnesota's 36-24 upset of San Francisco.

Green and Carter met Dec. 26 at the Metrodome. The Redskins won the game in overtime, 27-24. Carter caught two passes for 47 yards. Quarterback Wade Wilson threw to Carter six times, with four passes falling incomplete.

Although punt returning appears to be a risky business, Gibbs did not rule it out for Green this Sunday.

"I would go a lot off what he says and what he feels," Gibbs said. "If he comes to me and says he wants to do that, it would be a strong part of my decision."

In the past, Gibbs has been reluctant to use Green on more than an occasional punt return because of the threat of injury to one of the team's top players. But as the team gets closer to the Super Bowl, Gibbs' fears apparently have been assuaged, in spite of the injury Green suffered.

"That punt return was fantastic," Gibbs said.

Monk, who suffered a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Dec. 6, is not likely to play. He is not yet 100 percent, Tyer said. He has not practiced, nor has he told Gibbs he wants to practice. The head coach said he is waiting to hear Monk say he is ready before he begins to think about using him in a game.

Monk has been running on his own under the supervision of assistant trainer Keoki Kamau. "I don't know if he's done a lot of real cutting, back and forth," Gibbs said. "I know he has run routes straight ahead."

It's considered more likely that Monk, who missed the Redskins' 1982 Super Bowl victory with a broken foot, will be ready for Super Bowl XXII Jan. 31, if the Redskins are in the game.

Because of these uncertainties, Gibbs said he would not rule out making changes at running back or wide receiver later in the week. Trusted veteran Keith Griffin was not activated this week, but could come back for the Vikings. Gibbs said he will continue to "go with the hot guy" in his one-back formation. Smith, a rookie from Texas Tech, is expected to receive quite a bit of playing time again Sunday unless Rogers gets untracked from a long slump.

At wide receiver, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders made 10 catches for 148 yards, but third wide receiver Anthony Allen did not make a catch. Monk's status is a factor here, and Clarence Verdin, on the five-man inactive roster, also is available.

Two other players were injured at Chicago, but Tyer said defensive lineman Markus Koch (bruised knee) and linebacker Kurt Gouveia (strained hamstring) will be fine.

As he usually does, Gibbs praised the 12-4 Redskins' opponent, saying the 10-7 Vikings are "the hottest team going" and disagreeing with the oddsmakers who made his team a four-point favorite.

"I've never quite figured out how they pick a favorite," he said. "I don't think there is a favorite in this. I think it will be dead even in this one. It probably will wind up in overtime."

The last two times these teams have met, the Redskins won in overtime, including a 44-38 win in 1986.

If the Vikings rolling -- and they certainly seem to be -- what is the Redskins' status?

"I like the fact we've gone to play in two tough situations {Minnesota and Chicago} and won," Gibbs said. "We don't have wins like Minnesota has had, but we have found a way to win, and I like that . . . Hopefully coming home will give us a lift."

1. Early in the third quarter with the score tied, 14-14, Darrell Green fielded a punt from Chicago's Tommy Barnhardt at the Redskins 48 and headed toward the right sideline.

2. Green ran down the sideline and hurdled Bears defender Cap Boso at the Chicago 35, a move that resulted in a rib injury that became evident as he cut back toward the middle of the field.

3. As green headed for open field, teammate Barry Wilburn got between Green and Bears defender Emery Moorehead. Wilburn brushed Moorehead out of the play and Green was on his way, clutching his injured side with his left hand.

4. Over the last 20 yards Green picked up an escort, Dennis Woodberry, who screened out Barnhardt at the 5. The 52-yard touchdown return and point after gave the Redskins a 21-14 lead, and they never trailed again.