Mark Schlereth says finding out that he'd been pulled from the starting lineup was disheartening, especially last week with his family having flown in from his native Alaska and the Washington Redskins hosting the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

Schlereth learned a few hours before the Giants game that Raleigh McKenzie would replace him at right guard. Line coach Jim Hanifan told him it had little to do with how he'd played, but more with that he wanted to get six-year man McKenzie more playing time. He told him to stay ready, and that eventually he'd be back in there.

"I'd like to be starting," Schlereth said, "but if they feel it's best for the team, I'll go along. I won't cause waves or ask questions. I was surprised, but I don't make the decisions."

The Redskins have pretty much stopped rotating their linemen, which may mean much more bench time than Schlereth ever expected. But Joe Jacoby, a 10-year veteran, is in the same fix, and he's accepting it.

"It'll be harder to stay in shape, but that's part of it," Schlereth said. "I won't get as many reps during practice, so I've sort of got to get them mentally. When the offense runs a play, I've got to concentrate on running that play in my head. My feeling is that I'm going to keep a positive mental attitude and work hard and things will take care of themselves."

Schlereth was one of last season's improbable success stories, a 10th-round pick rising from training camp long shot to a starter in Week 11 after the line had been depleted by injuries. He played well, and after a summer of weightlifting had gotten bigger and stronger.

The Redskins knew they'd be faced with many tough offensive line decisions. The original plan seemed to be McKenzie at left guard and Schlereth at right guard.

But the wild card has been the way Russ Grimm has bounced back from two seasons of injuries. "He has come in from the first day of training camp and looked like a young colt out there," Hanifan said.

Coach Joe Gibbs said he originally expected Grimm to be his coach-on-the-field and a spot player. But he has yet to miss a practice, much less a game. Johnson, Finally

Cornerback Sidney Johnson took the scenic route to Redskin Park this week. Before he was signed to replace injured Johnny Thomas, he'd been home in Missouri after Kansas City released him in its final cutdown.

He started his career with the Chiefs in 1988, then went to Tampa Bay as a Plan B signee in 1989. The Buccaneers cut him and Johnson spent last season working toward his college degree. He re-signed with the Chiefs and lasted until holdout cornerbacks Kevin Ross and Albert Lewis showed up.

"When Tampa Bay cut me, I was wondering if I even wanted to play anymore," he said. "But after the Chiefs let me go, I knew I wanted to give it another shot. I didn't think it would take this long, but I'm excited about being here."

The Redskins brought him in for a tryout during the third week of the season, then phoned him late Monday. He'll play special teams this week and be available as a backup cornerback after he learns the system.

Black Tie, White House

Quarterback Mark Rypien attended a black tie dinner for Hungarian President Arpad Goncz last night at the White House. . . . Wide receiver Joe Howard ran and made cuts on his sore left knee, but no decision on his status will be made until Saturday. Gibbs said he would still like to activate defensive tackle Jumpy Geathers. It appears the Redskins are considering a Howard-for-Geathers swap, but the decision will depend on Howard's progress. . . .

The Redskins have asked fans attending Sunday's game to bring bags of canned goods and other non-perishable foods. It'll be distributed to local shelters, day care centers and soup kitchens through the Capital Area Community Food Bank, the Maryland Food Bank of Baltimore and other local groups.