The Arena Football League expansion franchise purchased by Washington Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder could begin play in the D.C. area sooner than the spring of 2003, Snyder and league commissioner David Baker said yesterday.

Baker, Snyder and Fred Drasner, Snyder's partner in both the Redskins and the new indoor football team, participated in a news conference yesterday at Redskin Park in which Snyder's purchase of the Arena league franchise for Washington was announced. They said the team is scheduled to begin play in 2003, but could join the league sooner if all the necessary arrangements are made.

"It will be no later than 2003," Baker said.

The team must find an arena in which to play. Snyder said he will consider possible sites in downtown Washington as well as in the suburbs. The leading possibility appears to be the University of Maryland's new arena in College Park. Snyder said that Redskins' season-ticket holders and those on the club's waiting list for season tickets will be given the first opportunity to buy tickets for the new team.

"Washington fans have proven again and again if it's exciting and it's football, they want it," Snyder said. "We intend for the team to take the field to win."

According to sources close to the situation, plans have been made for the new team to be called the Washington Warriors and for players to wear helmets modeled after those worn by the Redskins in the 1960s. That logo features a white and gold arrow with feathers over a burgundy background. But the team name and logo have not received final approval from the Arena league's board of directors, sources said, and those plans were not announced yesterday. The board of directors never has rejected a team's proposed name or logo, according to sources.

Snyder expressed the hope that the indoor team would serve as a player-development tool for the Redskins.

"It's possible that down the line, football fans here will be able to watch the development of the Redskins' stars of tomorrow as they play in the Arena league," said Snyder, whose group paid approximately $4 million for the indoor league team.

CAPTION: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder paid about $4 million for indoor franchise.