CARLISLE, PA., JULY 29 -- A day of confusing and sometimes conflicting stories ended with the Washington Redskins on the verge of signing defensive back Todd Bowles and much closer to getting running back Gerald Riggs in camp.

But team officials were all but resigned to beginning full practices Monday morning without Darryl Grant, Markus Koch and Ravin Caldwell.

Almost everything was etched in sandstone this day, though, as Redskins veterans reported for a day of physicals and meetings in preparation for Monday's two-a-days.

What was clear was that three veterans -- Jeff Bostic, Greg Manusky and Monte Coleman -- did sign contracts. Bowles is expected to sign Monday morning, and to make room for the four veterans on the 80-man roster, four players will be cut around breakfast time.

Late this afternoon, the Bowles problem may have been cleared up when he phoned Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly and said he would report to training camp.

Casserly took that to mean Bowles would accept the offer on the table, $350,000 for 1990 and about $1.2 million over three years. He earned $250,000 last year. Bowles then met with his agent, Tony Agnone, before beginning the two-hour drive to Dickinson College.

"We're close," Agnone said. "I wouldn't think there'd be a problem. He's going to come up and talk to {defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon} and some others. I think he'll be on the field Monday."

Meanwhile, it also appeared that Riggs was close to a deal. Both sides have agreed on a four-year contract -- "what the total gross amount of dollars should be" -- a source said.

But there was still haggling over a couple of details and the source emphasized, "It could still fall through."

Riggs made $530,000 last season and was believed to be seeking a package worth about $800,000 per season in base pay. The Redskins were willing to pay that total, but want a lower base salary and a package loaded with incentives as a hedge against another injury-filled season.

Despite the apparent progress on Riggs and Bowles, Casserly was unable to reach agreement with Caldwell, Grant and Koch. So when practice begins, the Redskins will have something they don't normally have -- holdouts.

"We'd been hoping something could be worked out," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "It's something that happens, but you don't like it. It's more serious for us because we come to camp late. When we get here, we're about a week and a half behind everyone else and being late compounds it. I know there's two sides to this game and this is the business side. I don't deal with that side of it and I wouldn't want players here if they were unhappy with their contracts."

Casserly spent much of the day on the telephone talking to players and agents, and while he won't reveal the specifics of his conversations, sources indicated his message to all of them was: Negotiations have ended, and it's time to make a decision.

Some agents privately have said that Casserly hasn't been as easy to deal with as former general manager Bobby Beathard, but Casserly, knowing this is the annual game before the games, laughed at such a notion.

"These are negotiations," he said. "I don't think my stance this year is any different from what it was last year."

Gibbs bristled at the suggestion the Redskins were playing contract games. The Redskins have seldom had serious contract problems and they haven't changed their strategy this year.

"We were probably the only team to have all our rookies in camp on time," Gibbs said. "My push from the football side was to take the best shot before camp. The Redskins have never tried to sweat a guy down for another dollar. I thought a couple of these guys would have been here. I had a good talk with Markus and predicted he'd be here. I think he wants to play. It's just a matter of getting what he feels is fair."

Although Gibbs doesn't like the holdouts, it's nothing as serious as last season when the Redskins went down to the wire before signing two of their biggest stars -- wide receiver Ricky Sanders and cornerback Darrell Green.

One of the more interesting competitions of training camp was to be between Riggs and Earnest Byner at running back. Byner begins the season as the starter because that's the way he ended last season and he has all but predicted he'll keep the job.

With defensive linemen Koch and Grant out, the Redskins will take a longer look at Plan B signees Milford Hodge and Pat Swoopes and at rookie Kent Wells, a 295-pound sixth-round draft pick who has gotten high marks.

Caldwell started 13 games at outside linebacker last year and his competition was to come from top draft choice Andre Collins, who has had a terrific camp.

"I think any time you let somebody else practice at your position and you have as much talent and depth as you do on this football team, there are players that may get their opportunity here and they may blossom," Casserly said.

But Gibbs, tunnel-visioned as always, was in no mood to threaten anyone. He wants his players in camp and he wants them now.

"When veterans miss time, they lose work," he said. "You'd like to say you could get it done by osmosis or by watching films, but football doesn't work that way. You have to get out there and work and sweat. It takes a toll when you're not here."

Casserly indicated he would continue working the telephones on Monday, but that he had little to talk about.

"We wanted to get all the players in camp before camp started so we made every effort to get them in camp," he said. "We don't believe in negotiating through training camp. I think the history of the Redskins is well documented, that they've treated their players fairly in contract negotiations."