After a one-week hiatus, Washington Redskins linebacker Rich Milot definitely will be activated for the Super Bowl, although it is anyone's guess whether he will play against the Denver Broncos on Jan. 31 in San Diego.

Defensive assistant Larry Peccatiello said yesterday, "No question, Richie's right now one of our six linebackers that'll be suited up for the Super Bowl," albeit Milot might just be the sixth of six.

Milot, 30, was placed on the inactive list for last Sunday's NFC championship game against Minnesota so cornerback Tim Morrison could be added as insurance for Darrell Green, who was playing hurt. The Redskins could have deactivated Kurt Gouveia or Ravin Caldwell, but they chose Milot instead essentially because he's slower.

Since it is his ninth NFL season, he should have lost a step or two or three by now anyway, but Peccatiello said Milot "has never fully recovered" from an early season ankle injury, obviously making him slower still.

Peccatiello said Milot handled last week's demotion "like a pro" and added: "To be honest with you, I don't know if I'd have taken it as well as he did. We appreciate that."

On the other hand, Caldwell and Gouveia handled their promotions swimmingly, each sacking Minnesota quarterback Wade Wilson once. And throw in safety Clarence Vaughn, who looked and acted like a linebacker on Sunday, and you've got a relatively brand-new Redskin defense, chock full of young bodies.

In fact, Wilson kept pointing at Vaughn all during the afternoon, and he was also screaming: "Somebody block him! Somebody block him!" One time, nobody did, and Vaughn had a sack. And when the Vikings did block him, they missed somebody else, and Gouveia would have a sack, or Caldwell.

One thing Wilson noticed about the game was the Redskins' ability to stay in their lanes defensively. A few weeks before in Minneapolis, Wilson had scrambled for a lifetime high of 75 yards, and Peccatiello said the Redskins prepared for the NFC title game with that in mind.

Richie Petitbon, assistant head coach/defense, said: "We felt we needed to have more speed on the football field. We were very, very afraid of the Vikings running backs."

That's why Vaughn was out there, and Caldwell and Gouveia had been playing a lot more before that, anyway. The Redskins have always had difficulty with good running quarterbacks, and it goes back a long way, back to 1971, for instance, when a Bears quarterback named Bobby Douglass scrambled for nearly 100 yards and beat George Allen, 16-15, with an improvised extra point off an off-balance pass to Dick Butkus.

More recently, Philadelphia's Randall Cunningham has had "happy feet" against the Redskins, who prefer to face people like San Diego's Dan Fouts. His idea of scrambling is dropping to his knees.

Unfortunately, Washington's Super Bowl opponent, John Elway, is the antithesis of Fouts and surely the running envy of Wilson.

"As much as I think Wade Wilson is a great scrambler in the NFL, I really don't think you can compare him to a John Elway, okay?" Peccatiello said. "And in no way do I want to be derogatory in that manner {toward Wilson}, but I think John Elway is something special, and when you talk about containing him, you're talking about somebody who even if you do everything correctly, he's such a great athlete that he's capable of making great plays anyway."

Obviously, the Redskins defensive coaches will try to fool Elway, just as they fooled Wilson. In an era of bigger-than-life defensive coordinators -- the Buddy Ryans and Joe Colliers and so on -- perhaps lost in the shuffle are Petitbon and his staff, who continually come up with something substantially off the wall.

Against Chicago in the divisional playoff, it was a five-man front or defensive ends Dexter Manley and Charles Mann lining up on the same side or their own version of a "46" defense. Against the Vikings, it was a five-man front, coupled with five defensive backs and one linebacker.

The only reason that particular defense worked was that Vaughn is a former inside linebacker (Northern Illinois) and could play the run so well. The Redskins used that alignment mostly on second-and-long situations, when they found the Vikings' tendency was to run a lot of running plays. So, Vaughn would be there to watch the run, yet he had enough speed to drop back and play pass if need be.

In any event, the coaches would probably rather have Vaughn or Gouveia or Caldwell chasing Elway than Milot, which is why Milot's status is so uncertain. Vaughn, for one, is a rookie with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash. His assignment Sunday was made for him, simply because he was playing the same weak side he did in college.

Until the Bears game, Vaughn had been on injured reserve with a bad ankle, after having gotten a lot of playing time the first five regular games as a nickel back. Vaughn said Redskins coaches "were all over me" early last week, but Petitbon pulled him aside the day before the game and said, "Don't worry, just relax and play ball."

Of his and Gouveia's and Caldwell's expanded role, Vaughn said: "I guess they really have confidence in us, because they really stuck us in there in vital spots."

According to Peccatiello, Caldwell -- who spent all 1986 season on injured reserve -- "has got a long way to go to be a good football player in the NFL." On the other hand, he won over a few people by making a preseason bareheaded special-teams tackle after his helmet had been torn off. Teammates nicknamed him "Ironhead," though Vaughn recalled Caldwell was "a little spaced out" on the sideline after the hit.

"We joke around about sticking your head in there, but you don't mean it literally," Peccatiello said yesterday. "If you want to impress a coach, that's the way to do it."

Both Caldwell and Gouveia have become regular members of the Redskins' short-yardage defense. Caldwell replaces Monte Coleman at linebacker, while Coleman moves back and plays safety. Gouveia comes in as an extra linebacker.

What Peccatiello likes about Gouveia is his smarts, though several Redskins liked his hula following his sack of Wilson.

Gouveia, a native of Honolulu, said, "I don't really have a name for it; I just did it. I used to do it a little at BYU {his college}, just a little wiggle."

Against Elway, the quicker the better, so it's assumed Gouveia, Vaughn and Caldwell will play a lot in the Super Bowl. Still, Redskins coaches see a valuable side to Milot, since he can back up any linebacker position, especially middle linebacker.

Milot wasn't available for comment, but Peccatiello made the point: don't count him out.