The Washington Redskins returned to work yesterday with another link to their Super Bowl-championship teams of the late 1980s and early '90s, linebacker Kurt Gouveia, on the practice field with them. The club signed Gouveia to be its backup middle linebacker and placed reserve linebacker Malcolm Hamilton on the injured reserve list because of a herniated disk in his back.

Meantime, Coach Norv Turner said he plans to speak to Ken Harvey about returning to the team. Turner left open the possibility of a comeback by the veteran linebacker, who retired during training camp but said on Friday he'd be willing to play this season if club officials think he can help the team as a role player.

The Redskins, who had the weekend off, practiced yesterday, although tight end Stephen Alexander remained sidelined by the badly bruised lower back he suffered during the Redskins' 38-36 triumph over the Carolina Panthers nine days ago at Redskins Stadium.

Alexander, however, ran some pass routes yesterday and pledged to play in Sunday's game at Arizona. The Redskins are hopeful he'll practice Wednesday.

"There's still a little bit of swelling [but] it feels a lot better," Alexander said. "I did some running. I'm playing Sunday."

The Redskins will have to decide later this week about the availability of veteran tight end James Jenkins for the Cardinals game. Jenkins underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week. With the team's tight ends ailing, Turner acknowledged that the Redskins will focus this week on their three-wide-receiver packages that get veteran Irving Fryar on the field along with starters Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell.

Guard Tre Johnson participated in yesterday's practice but only took about half the snaps, Turner said. He has a sprained knee ligament, but the Redskins are optimistic he'll play Sunday.

Gouveia, 35, returned to the Redskins after a four-year absence. He was drafted by the team in 1986 and, after spending a season on injured reserve, played for the Redskins between 1987 and '94. He was a member of the Redskins' Super Bowl-winning clubs in '87 and '91, and was the team's starting middle linebacker in '92 and '93.

"I'm just excited to be back," Gouveia said. "I feel like I haven't left. It's great to be back in Washington. I missed the fans."

He spent a season with the Philadelphia Eagles and three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, but had been out of the league this season. A workout with the Indianapolis Colts didn't lead to anything, and he said yesterday he probably would have retired from football and moved on to other things if his telephone didn't ring at some point this fall. But the Redskins called last Wednesday just after he'd completed a workout, and he hopped on an airplane to fly cross-country from San Diego after hurriedly throwing a few pairs of jeans and some T-shirts into a bag.

Gouveia worked out on Thursday at Redskin Park, and team officials decided to sign him.

"I joked around with the coaches and let them know I've been a couch potato," Gouveia said following yesterday's practice. ". . . I've been working out and waiting for the call. I'm just happy the Redskins called me. . . . I was sucking wind [yesterday]. I was breathing hard. Those young guys were looking at me. I couldn't show them I was sweating."

Gouveia will back up starting middle linebacker Derek Smith, while veteran Fred Strickland moves from middle to outside linebacker on the second-team defense. Club officials also hope that Gouveia can help out on special teams. He said he expects the adjustment period to be brief.

"As far as knowing where to go, that'll probably take me two or three days," Gouveia said. "As far as football conditioning, that'll probably be another day or two. I'll work hard at it, because I want to get out there. I want to play, and I want to contribute to this team. This team has done well. It's a great bunch of young guys who are so motivated. What they need now is someone to take them along and guide them to do the right thing with hard work and determination to get where they want to go."

Hamilton's season ended when he was placed on the injured reserve list. Trainer Bubba Tyer said it's undetermined whether Hamilton will have to undergo surgery on his back. As for Harvey, Turner said he intends to explore the possibility of a return by the 34-year-old linebacker, but indicated Harvey was not a consideration to take Hamilton's roster spot.

"We were working on this and worked Kurt out last week, and I was asked a question about Ken Harvey last Friday with no thought that he had an interest," Turner said. "It's something I'm going to talk to Ken about, and down the road you don't know what's going to happen. When Ken left, he was very concerned about whether he could hold up and with where he was physically in terms of playing. Obviously it sounds like he feels better now."

Redskins Notes: The Redskins' offense fell from first to second in the NFL rankings, behind the Green Bay Packers. Running back Stephen Davis dropped from first to fourth among rushing leaders. Quarterback Brad Johnson remained the NFL's second-rated passer, behind the St. Louis Rams' Kurt Warner. Westbrook and Connell dropped to second and sixth, respectively, in the NFC in receiving yards.