Tight end Stephen Alexander received a cortisone injection in his injured hip on Monday, and said yesterday he is increasingly optimistic that he will be ready to return to the Washington Redskins' lineup Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

"It feels a ton better after that shot," Alexander said.

Alexander was on the Redskins' inactive list for last Sunday's loss at Detroit because of a strained hip flexor. He worked out on a treadmill yesterday, and said he plans to do some running on the field today. But he indicated that he probably won't attempt to participate fully in practice until Thursday.

"It [the cortisone shot] should be in full effect Thursday," Alexander said. "That's when I'm really aiming for. I feel a lot better, and I feel good that I'll be able to play Sunday."

Alexander has been bothered by the hip injury for weeks, and said he has received several cortisone shots. Doctors told him he could receive another cortisone shot this week, if necessary.

Coach Norv Turner said he'll make a late-week decision about whether Alexander will play against Arizona.

After watching Alexander limp and play ineffectively for two games, team officials decided early last week to rest him for the Detroit game and hope that would help him for the season's stretch run. Alexander was willing to continue trying to play through the discomfort, but acknowledged the team made the right decision.

"Me limping around wasn't doing us any good," he said. ". . . It's still not 100 percent, but the rest helped it."

Mike Sellers started in Alexander's place against the Lions, but he's a better blocker than pass catcher.

The Redskins also will make a decision late in the week about starting left guard Keith Sims, who on Sunday aggravated the knee injury that caused him to miss two games last month. Brad Badger would replace Sims again if Sims is sidelined.

By the Numbers

Quarterback Brad Johnson has 3,031 passing yards, making this the second 3,000-yard season of his NFL career. He's only five yards shy of his career best set with the Minnesota Vikings in 1997. He has 19 touchdown passes, putting him one away from his career high.