The Washington Redskins yesterday ended a tough, emotional weekend by cutting veterans Terry Orr, Mike Tice and Wayne Davis and saying goodbye to safety Clarence Vaughn for at least a day.

They swallowed hard and refused to part with any of their prized offensive linemen, a move that may have surprised the rest of the National Football League as much as any of the dozens of decisions announced yesterday, when teams reduced their rosters from 60 players to the season-opening limit of 47.

"I think some teams were counting on seeing some Redskin offensive linemen out there," a team source said.

Finally, the Redskins prepared for a nervous night, apparently hoping that three of their dozen waived players -- Vaughn, cornerback Alvoid Mays and defensive lineman Pat Swoopes -- would not be picked up and, thus, would be available to be re-signed this afternoon.

If they return, quarterback Jeff Rutledge and offensive linemen Mo Elewonibi and Ray Brown likely will be placed on injured reserve. They could not be activated from IR for at least four weeks.

"We're taking a big chance with some of these things," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "But you have to take a chance if you're going to have a good football team.

"You put someone out there {on waivers}, the number one thing we figure is they're going to get picked up. You anguish about it. You have a lot of apprehension and you're never really sure you've made the right decision."

It was a long and sometimes confusing day, but when it was over, the team that will open the regular season against the Phoenix Cardinals at RFK Stadium on Sunday had pretty much taken shape.

By Sunday, only two of last spring's 10 draft choices -- linebacker Andre Collins and running back Brian Mitchell -- will be active, with two others -- quarterback Cary Conklin and, presumably, Elewonibi -- on injured reserve. (If Vaughn is claimed, fourth-round pick Rico Labbe, a safety with a local background, probably will be re-signed.)

The Redskins have said the Plan B free agency system is a way to supplement the draft, and that happened this year, with seven Plan B signees making the 47-man roster. Swoopes, should he clear waivers, would be the eighth such veteran on the squad.

One veteran free agent -- Mays, who was in camp with the Houston Oilers last year -- probably will be in uniform on Sunday.

There was a lot of maneuvering. The Redskins kept extra players at wide receiver and on the offensive line, but cut below their normal numbers on the defensive line and secondary. Their reasoning was that wide receiver and the offensive line are their strongest positions, and the defensive line and secondary the weakest.

So General Manager Charley Casserly, Gibbs and their staffs risked losing a waived backup defensive back or lineman to hold on to some of their better young players at other spots.

Specifically, the primary moves to get down to 47 players were the waiving of 12 players -- Orr, Davis, Tice, Swoopes, Vaughn, Mays, Labbe, wide receiver Stephen Hobbs, defensive linemen Milford Hodge and Alonzo Mitz, linebacker Jon Leverenz and tight end Ken Whisenhunt.

Conklin, the University of Washington passer taken in the fourth round, will not be eligible to play in his rookie year. Since he did not make the 47-man roster before being placed on injured reserve, he must remain on IR through the season and will not be allowed to practice.

In making those moves, the Redskins were saved a tough decision on the offensive line, where they kept 10 players for the second year in a row. Only eight of them will be active Sunday.

They also were saved a tough decision on wide receiver-return man Joe Howard, who is becoming an organization favorite.

With his job on the line Friday night against the Los Angeles Rams, Howard got on the field only for special-teams duty and responded by returning a kickoff 84 yards, making two tackles and several clearing blocks.

After that game, the Redskins were not about to risk placing him on waivers and in fact, Casserly was told by at least one other team that Howard would have been claimed.

"It feels great," said the former Carroll High and Notre Dame multisport standout.

"I'll tell you, this morning was definitely hard. You don't know who's going to talk to you or what they're going to say. I was afraid to go into the meetings. I knew it was tight, but I told myself Friday that if I got an opportunity I was going to make the most of it. Maybe that's what kept me here."

Still, keeping extra wide receivers and offensive linemen leaves the Redskins short in other areas, and when waivers expire at noon today, some of yesterday's cuts will be getting telephone calls.

The Redskins weren't saying last night, but they apparently were prepared to re-sign Vaughn, Mays and Swoopes. If they are available, the only mild surprise would be that Mays is being kept over Davis, who was picked up last season after being released by the Buffalo Bills.

Another surprise may be Rutledge. If the former New York Giants backup is shifted to injured reserve, the Redskins will play the first four weeks with only Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries at quarterback.

However, they normally have only two quarterbacks in uniform anyway, so Rutledge amounts to a four-week gamble that Rypien and Humphries will stay healthy.

By far the toughest decision was on Orr, a four-year veteran who perfectly fit the description of what Gibbs calls "Good Redskins." He not only did a good job at tight end and on special teams, he is classy, bright and a fanatical offseason worker.

Gibbs said that letting him go "was tough and emotional. It's going to be tough to do without him. I don't like doing things like this. But what you have to do is as much research as you can and hope you made the right decision."

What the Redskins decided was that they could only keep four players at tight end.

One of them, Jimmie Johnson, is the No. 1 H-back and Don Warren is the No. 1 traditional tight end. Since the Redskins are going to use three wide receivers about 60 percent of the time -- with Ricky Sanders lining up as the H-back -- Johnson is the only true H-back.

He got the nod over Orr after a tremendous camp in which he followed up his rookie exploits by showing continued flashes of brilliance as a pass catcher.

The other two spots went to John Brandes, who also serves as the snapper on punts, and to tight end Ron Middleton, who had been cut three times by the Redskins and was brought back with a fat Plan B signing bonus after finishing last season in Cleveland, for whom he scored in the playoffs.

Orr was the odd man out again, as Middleton apparently got the edge because he is regarded as the better blocker.

"One of the hardest guys to find is the Don Warren-type blocker," Gibbs said. "He probably fits in a little better."

If it was a sad day for some, it was a day of elation for others.

Mitchell, the rookie running back, pointed to the rows of lockers around him and said: "It's a dream I've had all my life. These are guys I've watched on television and said that I'd like to be like them.

"To be on this level is really special."

Redskins Notes:

Defensive end Fred Stokes returned to practice, equipped with a newly strengthened left shoulder and a harness built to help keep it in place.

"I didn't really punish it," he said. "When I got hit, I rolled off. It wasn't full contact."

Stokes said he probably wasn't prepared to play a full game, but added: "I won't have to. I think I'll be brought along slowly and it'll be fine."