The status of Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, one of the two players involved in what is expected to be the most important individual matchup of Sunday's NFC championship game, remained shrouded in secrecy yesterday.

If his sprained rib cartilage heals enough to allow him to play, Green will cover Minnesota wide receiver Anthony Carter, the sensation of the NFL playoffs to date.

But Green is not expected to practice today in the Redskins' first workout for the Vikings, and might practice only "a little bit" Thursday and Friday, said defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas.

"We hope he will play and are making up the game plan with him in it," Thomas said yesterday at Redskin Park on the players' day off. "If he can't play, Brian Davis will replace him. But if Darrell says he can play, he will play."

Green wasn't saying anything yesterday afternoon when he showed up to be evaluated by the trainers and to see Coach Joe Gibbs. Neither Green nor Gibbs would comment on Green's condition, a spokesman said. Green suffered his injury while hurdling the Bears' Cap Boso on his way to a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Redskins' 21-17 victory over Chicago last Sunday.

Monday evening, Green, who was just voted to the Pro Bowl for the third time in five seasons, said he was aware his coaches thought he probably could play in the 12:30 p.m. game at RFK Stadium, but he said he didn't know what his condition would be until the end of the week.

"I know the coaches will put pressure on me to play," Green said, "but we'll just have to wait and see."

If Green can't play, either Davis or Barry Wilburn will cover Carter, but the Redskins aren't saying who it will be.

When the Redskins defeated the Vikings, 27-24, in overtime Dec. 26, Carter caught two passes for 47 yards. In Minnesota's two playoff games, Carter has caught 16 passes for 306 yards and a 19.1-yard average. He had 10 receptions for 227 yards, an NFL playoff record, in Minnesota's 36-24 upset victory over San Francisco.

"Against us, they were running the ball well and spreading it out, getting the ball to a lot of people," Thomas said. "I don't think they've changed much in the playoffs, but they are trying to get the ball into his hands. They know to go to him if they want the big play."

Even if Green says he can play, there is a chance he might not be able to play the whole game. Gibbs acknowledged Monday that Green could "aggravate" his injury if he twisted or turned hard playing with it.

Gibbs said Green could take a painkiller for the injury, but Green said Monday night on WTTG-TV-5 that he would not do that.

Meanwhile, head trainer Bubba Tyer said wide receiver Art Monk ran yesterday at Redskin Park, but "nothing's changed." Monk suffered knee ligament damage Dec. 6 and Gibbs said Monday he guessed Monk would not play against the Vikings.

"I think he gets better each week," Tyer said. "He's still not 100 percent."

Gibbs said yesterday through a spokesman that he would not comment on Monk's status until today.

Running backs coach Don Breaux said yesterday that he is not disappointed in George Rogers, who gained only 13 yards on six carries at Chicago, but was picked by Gibbs to start again this Sunday.

"If we were {disappointed in him}, we wouldn't be starting him," Breaux said. "Last week, George starts, then we put Timmy {Smith} in, Timmy makes a couple good plays, so we keep going with him. George wasn't off to a rousing start, but that doesn't mean he was not going to have a good game. He just never got back in much from that point."

After being replaced by Smith in the second quarter, Rogers returned only once -- for a three-yard touchdown run late in that quarter. Late in the game, in a short-yardage situation, Gibbs said Rogers told the coaches to keep Smith in the game.

Twice, the Redskins were faced with fourth down and inches to go inside the Chicago 35, and both times they failed to make the necessary distance.

Gibbs said Monday he "hopes" his team does not lack confidence in its short-yardage game, and offensive tackle Mark May said yesterday there was no danger of that.

"No, absolutely not," May said. "They had nine guys on the line that one time. We know we can do it."

The Redskins' offensive line will be the same against Minnesota as it was at Chicago. In other words, Russ Grimm will continue to sit on the bench, except for extra point and field goal attempts. He plays on both of those units.

Grimm isn't playing because Gibbs said he was happy with the way Jeff Bostic played at center. "We plan on staying the way we are," Gibbs said.

If the Redskins win, Doug Williams will be the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Joe Gilliam, a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1973 and 1974, was on the Steelers' roster during Super Bowls IX and X in 1975 and 1976, but did not play in either game. Terry Bradshaw was the Steelers' starter.

Williams came within 10 points of starting a Super Bowl in 1979, when he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC championship game. Tampa Bay was defeated by the Los Angeles Rams, 9-0.

This is the fifth time in seven NFL seasons that Williams has been to the playoffs.

Fumbles by Williams have led to four touchdowns by Washington opponents this season: Philadelphia, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago. But Williams said Monday there is no way to defend against fumbling when blindsided.

"When you have your arm up, and they hit you from behind, there's nothing you can do," Williams said. "If you see them coming, of course you can do something. But if they catch you from behind, you can't do a thing about it except hope you fall on the ball.

"That's what happens a lot of times when a quarterback is blindsided. He lands on the ball. That hasn't happened to me."

The Redskins are the first NFL team to play in four conference championship games this decade. They won the championship in 1982 and 1983 and lost it last season. Three other teams -- Miami, Dallas and San Francisco -- have played in three conference championship games.