Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington is still optimistic that he can play Sunday in Chicago and rejoined the team for parts of yesterday's practice. Arrington has missed three weeks recovering from minor knee surgery and had hoped to return for Sunday night's loss to Baltimore but was not cleared by the trainers. He is questionable for this Sunday's game.

The team does not want to him to aggravate his injury by coming back too soon, and with the bye week upcoming, there is some thinking that he should take another game off. Arrington wants to play and was eager to have his helmet and pads back on yesterday, but was reserved when asked about the chances he would be on the field in Chicago.

"You have to ask the trainers, because I don't know," Arrington said. "They've got to tell me."

Coach Joe Gibbs was cautious about Arrington, and said that until he fully practices a return for a game is unlikely.

"Obviously, if the guy can play and he's 100 percent he's going to play," Gibbs said. "We'd love it; I'd love it. But he has to feel great and be ready to go and he's got to practice and I know he wants to. . . . Anybody that can play we're going to play."

Defensive end Phillip Daniels, who had hoped to return from his groin tear in time to face Chicago, his former team, is out. Linebacker Mike Barrow, who has yet to play all season because of a knee tendon problem, did not practice fully and was listed as doubtful.

Defensive lineman Joe Salave'a suffered a strain in his calf in Sunday's loss. He is questionable and was unable to practice. He said he will do whatever he can to get back for the Bears. "It will take something drastic for me to be out," he said. "I'll be ready." Fellow defensive lineman Ron Warner missed practice because of an ankle injury. Gibbs said the team had to alter its drills yesterday to account for all of the defensive linemen who were out.

The team has major injury concerns in the secondary as well. Starting strong safety Matt Bowen is out for the season with a knee injury, and his replacement, Andre Lott, missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but practiced yesterday and was listed as probable. Safety Ryan Clark, who filled in for Bowen last week, was not hindered by his ankle injury, practiced fully and will play against Chicago. Cornerback Shawn Springs, who has experienced tendinitis on the outside of his ankle, missed practice and was listed as probable.

Offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones could not participate in drills, either. He has been bothered by a left ankle injury and had a boot on that foot yesterday. He and fellow right tackle Ray Brown (hamstring) are listed as probable for Sunday's game, as is return man Chad Morton (knee).

Gibbs to the Defense

Gibbs defended the play of reserve running back Ladell Betts this week, but Betts's inability to block Baltimore's Ed Reed on a safety blitz led to Reed stripping quarterback Mark Brunell of the ball and returning his fumble for a touchdown, reversing the course of the game. Joe Theismann, a former quarterback under Gibbs and an ESPN analyst who was broadcasting the Redskins-Ravens game, said he believes that Betts is getting a much different message in private. "I would not want to be Ladell Betts this week in practice," Theismann said during a phone interview. "I know Joe had some nice things to say about him [publicly], but you just can't miss a block like that." . . . Clinton Portis's refusal to speak to the media has now spread to all of the running backs, several players said. No runner was willing to talk to reporters yesterday. . . . Wide receiver Laveranues Coles has been hesitant to speak about the injured middle finger on his right hand that has caused him to drop a few passes this season, but he admitted yesterday the hand is bothering him. "Of course it's going to be tough," Coles said. "It's my job to catch the ball; I'm a wide receiver. That's what I do -- catch the ball, and anytime you have anything wrong with any extremity of your body, especially your hand, it affects you."

Randy Thomas, right, is congratulated by linebacker LaVar Arrington in the 2nd quarter of Redskins' loss to the Ravens on Sunday. Arrington is still recovering from knee surgery.