This is a magical time of joy and thanksgiving for Washington Redskins quarterback Stan Humphries and his wife, Connie.

Natives of Louisiana, they celebrated Christmas in the Washington area for the first time. They also shared it with a child for the first time.

The health of that child, a 6-month-old daughter named Brooke, is why Stan cares much less about being stranded on the injured reserve list and much more about the gift some good fortune and helpful people brought him around the time he was hurt.

"It's been a real special time," Stan said. "Everything now is great."

When Brooke Renee Humphries was born June 20, there was some doubt she would make it to June 21. A little more than three weeks premature, but already 7 pounds 6 ounces, Brooke came into this world a little too easily for her own good.

"It went really fast," Connie Humphries said. "And they {the doctors} said she was a lot like a Caesarean baby." Fluid that normally would have been squeezed from the baby's lungs as she was being born remained there.

"She would just quit breathing," Connie said.

Horrifying moments, but ones Brooke overcame.

Soon, though, there was a bout with jaundice. And then came a condition that would terrorize Stan and Connie Humphries not for moments, but for months.

It was an allergy to protein. Think about what that means -- a basic nutrient being rejected by the body at a time it needs it the most. "She has to get so much for her brain to form and for her to grow," Connie said.

But protein was making Brooke's stomach do gymnastics. And, of course, there was only way for her to let anyone know something wasn't right.

"Every minute, all day long she was crying," Stan said. "She was starving but when you would feed her, she would cry even worse because it was hurting her so bad."

For what seemed the longest time, the Humphries' doctors could not determine the problem. And for a parent -- especially a first-time parent -- there is nothing worse. "The baby can't tell you what's wrong and you just sit there wondering," Stan said.

Eventually, the time came for Stan to go to training camp in Carlisle, Pa. Left alone with Brooke for the first time, Connie wore down. She finally made two phone calls -- one to her mother, one to Stan.

"Stan, I'm sorry if you're mad," she told him, "but I can't handle it any longer. I'm getting on the next plane home."

Connie took Brooke to the doctor who had been her pediatrician. After changing Brooke's formula "like six times" during the week and a half Connie and Brooke spent in Louisiana, the doctor found one that seemed to agree with the little girl.

But about four weeks later, in early September, Brooke started having trouble again. Stan and Connie were frantic.

"I asked everybody," said Stan, who spoke to the Redskins' team physicians and asked them for help.

Connie ended up taking Brooke to a specialist at Georgetown University Hospital.

"He was wonderful," Connie said. "I told him five minutes worth of stuff, just different things that she had gone through. He said, 'She's allergic to protein.' I said, 'How do you know that? You haven't run a test. You haven't done anything.'

"He said he sees this eight to 10 times a week. That really shocked me.

"I mean, how many kids would you think are allergic to protein?"

It was a relief, but the battle was just beginning.

On Sept. 23, during the time the Humphries and the doctors wee struggling to find the proper mixture of formula and water for Brooke, Redskins starting quarterback Mark Rypien injured his knee. The job, the media crush and a huge responsibility were Stan's.

Meanwhile, Brooke still was spending a lot of her time crying. But Stan now needed his rest and his space more than ever.

"We pretty much slept in separate bedrooms," Connie said. "We had to because she was up so much that he would have never gotten any sleep."

As it was, Stan would get very little sleep and drag himself to Redskin Park. He kept mostly to himself about Brooke.

"I don't know why," he said. "I guess that once I got here, I kind of tried to put it out of my mind for a little bit and tried to contend with what was going on here. But it was hard to cut it all the way out. The sad thing was that Connie never had any time to get away. She was there continuously."

Even now, Connie isn't sure how she managed.

"It's hard," she said. "It is very hard. But Stan was under a lot of pressure, and I wanted him to do well. I didn't want because Brooke was sick or whatever . . . well, you just do it. I don't know. I don't know where I found the energy to stay awake all the time or anything.

"But I have some really good friends."

Susan Edwards, the wife of safety Brad Edwards, was among those who helped Connie with her ordeal. The Redskins' bye week helped, and so did quarterbacks coach Rod Dowhower. Formerly a coach at Stanford, Dowhower put the Humphries in touch with a doctor at the school who had just completed a paper on protein intolerance.

Things came to a head as the Redskins were getting ready for the three-week stretch in October in which they played the Giants twice and the Eagles once.

With Brooke continuing to struggle and Stan continuing to start, the doctor at Georgetown recommended that Brooke be placed in the hospital for a series of tests.

"Just to make sure that it wasn't a tumor or an ulcer or anything like that," said Connie, who again called home to Louisiana for reinforcement.

Brooke emerged from the tests still diagnosed as having only the allergy, although the Humphries were told the ailment might linger until she was 2 or 3 years old. Remarkably, though, by about the beginning of November the problem disappeared. The Humphries and the doctors think Brooke has outgrown it.

Of course, it was just about then that Stan injured his knee in a Monday night game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. But now Stan has recovered, though he remains on the Redskins' injured reserve list, and Brooke is headed in the right direction.

She still weighs only 15 pounds (about double her weight at birth), "so it's going to take her a little while to catch up," Connie said.

"But we are so happy right now. It's wonderful."