Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green practiced yesterday and "probably will" start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, assistant head coach/defense Richie Petitbon said.

"Darrell will play," Petitbon said after the team's final full practice yesterday at Redskin Park. "I thought he looked very good . . . I would think he probably will {start}. We will wait and see, but I think he's going to be fine, I really do."

Said Coach Joe Gibbs: "It looks like he will be playing. We're not sure how long. The question is, if he gets in there and warms up and gets hit, I don't know what happens. But it looks like he'll play some."

Green sprained rib cartilage on his 52-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Redskins' 21-17 victory over Chicago last week. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday before returning to work yesterday and running about 12 plays in the team's defensive script. He did not appear to favor his injured right side and ran, cut and defended receivers just about as usual.

"He looked excellent," said defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas.

Although Green said Monday he wouldn't want to take a painkiller, it appears likely that's just what he will do to be able to play in the 12:30 p.m. game Sunday at RFK Stadium.

"We want to get him as close to 100 percent as possible and that could include {a painkiller}," Petitbon said. "I don't see that as being a big deal."

Green refused comment as he left the practice field.

But it was clear he and his teammates were buoyed by his performance on the artificial turf field at Redskin Park. Gibbs shouted out praise and encouragement several times. Defensive end Charles Mann shook Green's hand as the defensive team's practice ended.

And Green walked spritely off the field and into the locker room.

"It was very exciting to see Darrell come out and take some work," Mann said. "It definitely would be a shot in the arm {if Green plays}."

Said Gibbs: "At least he's improved a little bit each day. We'll just have to see how he feels at {pregame} warmup. Our approach is that whatever he can do is a bonus. We were taking the approach that he would not be there, so whatever he does is a bonus."

Just what Green will do against the Vikings is another matter. Were he completely healthy, he would cover wide receiver Anthony Carter, the sensation of the playoffs who caught 16 passes for 306 yards in Minnesota's first two playoff games.

But because Green isn't completely healed, there is some doubt about exactly what the Redskins will have him do.

"He will cover Carter from time to time," Petitbon said, beginning to smile, "unless Anthony doesn't play."

It would be just fine with Minnesota Coach Jerry Burns if Green sat out Sunday's game.

"Obviously, he's a great player," Burns said of Green. Then he smiled. "I would be less than honest if I said I hope he's 100 percent for the game. I'd like him to get well -- right after the game."

Carter, the former U.S. Football League standout, has had a sore left shoulder, but is listed as probable (75 percent chance of playing) for the game. Green was listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) earlier in the week.

"You would always rather have a healthy player cover a top receiver than a player who is not completely healthy," Petitbon said. "We'll just have to see."

Rookie Brian Davis has taken Green's place the past three days in practice and was once again running with the first team much of yesterday.

Gibbs said that if Green cannot start, Davis, the second-round draft choice from Nebraska and the Redskins' first pick in last year's draft, will.

If Green starts but cannot play the entire game, Davis will replace him. It's also possible Green and Davis will play together in nickel situations as they have for the last part of the season.

Davis, the team's top choice in the 1987 draft, declined comment yesterday to a Washington Post reporter. He told Channel 4, "I think Darrell will start, but there is a chance of him reinjuring himself so I have to prepare myself . . . We need to get to the quarterback. Maybe we'll be the first team to hold this guy {Carter} down. He'll make some catches. Just as long as it's not big plays."

Davis fared well after replacing Green in last week's victory over the Chicago Bears. He had one interception and was beaten only once by speedster Willie Gault, on a 44-yard pass that Davis almost deflected.

But Gibbs said yesterday the Redskins would prefer not to have just one defensive back covering Carter.

"You continually have to change it up," Gibbs said of the coverage. "I don't think you can give one guy coverage {of Carter}."

Green participated in most of the defensive backs' drills before defensive practice.

"We worked him a little harder than we might have to see if he gets sore tonight," Thomas said. "He said he felt pretty good, but we'll let him sleep on it and see how he feels tomorrow."

"He won't be sore," Petitbon said. "He moved around pretty good. He's got two more days, and I think he'll be fine."

The Redskins also are hoping defensive lineman Markus Koch will be able to play, but, for a third consecutive day, Koch missed practice with a bad case of the flu.

"He came in this morning, but he still didn't stay to work," Gibbs said. "We think he'll be okay."

The Redskins would consider making a roster move if Koch cannot play, Gibbs said.

Koch has been given an increasingly expanded role in the team's pass rush this season.

The Redskins could not practice on their Bermuda grass field at Redskin Park because it still is frozen.

This means their entire week of preparation was on artificial turf. RFK Stadium, of course, has a natural grass field.

The Vikings left Minnesota and conducted most of their workouts on the natural grass of Tampa Stadium. They are expected to practice at RFK Stadium today at 12:30 p.m.