The snap from center on field-goal tries is no snap under ordinary circumstances, though Ted Fritsch usually makes it seem so. He is one of those players the athletic world only notices after failure - and yesterday there was every reason for him to attract negative headlines.
As the Redskins moved into position for the winning field goal in overtime against the Giants, the critical player was not the kicker. Mark Moseley, but the fellow who would deliver the ball.
Fritsch at the time was more concerned about breathing than snapping. And the backup snapper, Bob Kuziel, had an injured hand. And the backup backup snapper, Jim Harlan, was practicing but hoping Fritsch was a quick healer.
Less than 90 seconds earlier. Fritsch had been kneed in the ribs during a punt and had been on the ground long enough "to just assume I'd gone asleep for a little while out there."
On the sideline, Fritsch was rational enough to realize that although every breath was a chore he'd better get snapping or poor Harlan might get the chance to suddenly sprout goat horns.
"I had the feeling my whole right side was caving in," Fritsch said. The team physician, Dr. Stanford Lavine, later said "a couple" ribs were broken. "But I had to practice, because I didn't know if I could bend over and breathe, if I could move my right arm."
The practice snaps hardly were encouraging.
"I know the first one was a little low," he said. In truth, it was a one-hopper. "I tried another one (which was adequate) and knew I had to go in. I figured it was just one play - and you can do anything for one play."
Fritsch is one of those snappers who does not look at his snaps, reasoning: "I aim at a certain point, and if I release the ball at a certain time and a certain place I'll get it there all right.
"I don't know how great it was. I was looking for guys to block."
By Fritsch's usual standards, it was awful. But a high Fritsch snap still is well within holder Joe Theismann's reach, so the ball was placed properly and Moseley sent it through the uprights.
"I once broke a finger before a snap." Fritsch said, "but never had anything like this happen, nothing like wondering whether you can bend over and still breathe."
Lavine was among the first to Fritsch's side after Moseley's winning kick and later sent Fritsch to the hospital to confirm the damage. Probably, Fritsch will be able to perfrom against the Cards Sunday.
Otherwise, it was a mostly bleak afternoon for Redskin offensive linemen. Except for one 26-yard effort by Mike Thomas on what amounted to a broken play. Redskin runners had no room to run.And Theismann often must have wondered whether he would remain alive, let alone complete a pass.
Until the final moments of regulation and overtime, the Giant defensive line treated Redskin blockers like so many wooden Indians. Somebody named George Martin resembled Harvey Martin, mainly because he was going against Washington's tenderfoot right tackle, Jeff Williams.
An injury to George Starke had forced Williams into starter status last week against the Colts. He had played well. Yesterday was his baptism into the NFL. Once, Martin seemed to reach the passing pocket before Theismann.
"The good parts were good." Williams said," "but the bad parts were real bad. I wasn't setting up deep enough and Martin got around me to the outside. Fortunately, I adjusted late in the game."
Williams missed nearly all of training camp and all but a few practices before replacing Starke less than a week ago. Undoubtedly, this was a factor in yesterday's troubles.
"I hope so," he admitted. "If it wasn't, I won't be around very long."
Indeed, the reason the Giants have won four of the last five games against the Redskins is that their every strength plays to a relative Redskin weakness. Which means that their offensive and defensive lines usually outplay the Redskins.
The Giants seemed determined not to allow quarterback Joe Pisarcik to throw a forward pass beyond five yards. They wanted a brawl - and got it for nearly 45 minutes of the most boring football possible.
When Troy Archer recovered a Theismann fumble and lumbered 20 yards for the go-ahead Giant touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the NFL brand of justice seemed to be catching up to Washington. They had beaten the Patriots the first game of the season on a similar play.
Yesterday they had enough to recover.
"The Giants love to play the Redskins," Kuziel said. "If they played as well against Dallas as they do against us, they'd give us some help. The first half this time they had a ball.
"They loved it. But we got the last laugh - finally."