CARLISLE, PA., AUG. 8 -- Rookie quarterback Cary Conklin's injured right knee has improved so much that he asked Coach Joe Gibbs to allow him to take part in practice today. Gibbs declined, sort of, letting Conklin take only a few snaps and throw passes in controlled situations.

But his progress has been dramatic enough that the Washington Redskins now believe he may not have to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered last week when defensive end Charles Mann rolled into him.

In fact, neither Gibbs nor Conklin would rule out Conklin playing a bit in Saturday's preseason opener against Atlanta in Chapel Hill, N.C.

"It feels pretty good," Conklin said. "A lot of the soreness has gone out of it. It felt good enough to practice and I think I could have done anything anyone else did. It feels a lot more stable."

Conklin, in a fight with veteran Jeff Rutledge for the third quarterback spot, wants to return to practice. It would take only a minor problem to send him to injured reserve for the season, especially if Rutledge's shoulder injury is not serious.

Conklin said he was most encouraged about being able to drop back and plant his right leg with only minimal pain and that "the way it's coming, I should be able to do everything in a few days."

Gibbs would not rule him out of Saturday's game, but added: "It might have to be a couple of plays in an emergency."

Rutledge's progress has been much slower. He watched another practice today, then went to a separate field and tossed about 25 passes to a trainer.

"It's sore," he said. "I just couldn't get much on it. The trainers seem encouraged about the progress. They said it's just been four days and I took a pretty good hit on {the shoulder}. But it's still frustrating. It still doesn't feel right and I want to be out there competing for a job, not watching someone else compete for my job." It's Tough Out There

Having spent five seasons with the Colts and Patriots, Plan B defensive end Milford Hodge said he wondered how the Redskins would be different, and after four months he has found out. He said the Redskins do more offseason work, have longer and harder practices during training camp and put more emphasis on work than his previous two teams.

"I'm not knocking anyone else," he said, "but I've never been in this kind of shape. These are long, hard days. They're very careful about things. They take time out of the practice schedule to allow you to get your lifting {weights} in and I feel stronger than ever." . . .

When Markus Koch signed this afternoon, rookie free agent offensive tackle Doug Glaser of Nebraska was cut to keep the roster at 80.