For one of the few times since he firmly established himself as the team's No. 1 punter, Mike Bragg will face a serious challenge for his job this summer at the Redskins' training camp.
The Redskins want Bragg to improve on his 38.4 average of last season, which included too many inconsistent days to completely satisfy Coach Jack Pardee and his staff.
That's why he'll be kicking against two other veteran punters, former Eagle Mike Michel and former 49er Mike Connell, instead of the usual assortment of rookies and fringe players.
"We want competition at every spot," Pardee said. "If the guy's good enough to win a position, then we'll keep him." Added another Redskin: "This is not just for window dressing. This is a serious challenge for Mike's spot."
Washington got its first good look at Michel and Connell yesterday during the club's rookie and free-agent minicamp at Redskin Park. Pardee was impressed by the height of Connell's boots and the athletic ability of Michel, who is one of the two or three best racquetball players in the league. m
The mere fact Pardee is looking at them is enough right now for both of them, although Michel finds it ironic that the team is even giving him a tryout.
He is the same Mike Michel who once whiffed on a punt against the Redskins and then begged Philadelphia Coach Dick Vermeil to cut him the next week "so I wouldn't hurt the team with my kicking."
"I thought the Redskins might hold that against me," he said about the missed kick, which was recorded as a fumble. "You'd think that would hurt me. But they are giving me a chance and I appreciate it. I could have signed with the 49ers but I liked this organization, the coaches and the fact that I'm competing against a veteran as good as Mike. You tend to kick up to your competition."
Michel has been out of football for a year, ever since he was cut by the Eagles last August. He almost caught on with Miami, the team that drafted him in 1977, during the middle of last season and he also talked with New Orleans. But otherwise, he worked with a beer company in California and prepared himself for a fresh start in the league.
"He's a terrific athlete," said General Manager Bobby Beathard, who drafted him for the Dolphins on the fifth round. I think the fact that we aren't asking him to place kick, too, will help him. For the first time, he can concentrate just on punting."
Michel agrees, "Sometimes my punting form was hurt by the different motion I use for placekicking. Now I can really work on one form and stay with it. I've always had a quick release and I've punted well under all types of pressure.
"I think I can make this team, I'm going to give it my best shot. But I've found now that I can make a living for myself without being in the game."
Besides his recquetball skills, Michel is a songwriter.
He and Tim Foley of the Dolphins sing in the offseason and they have a new album more than half of which they wrote themselves.
"It's selling well in Miami and Atlanta and I've introduced it in California," he said. "We really haven't pushed it hard but it's a thrill having it."
Still, Michel yearns to prove himself in the league. He averaged 38.2 yards as a rookie with Miami after replacing Larry Seiple and then booted for a 35.8 mark with the Eagles in 1978. In between, he hurt his kicking leg and was waived by the Dolphins. Philadelphia signed him on a Saturday and he kicked against the Redskins that Sunday, when he produced his phantom punt.
"I've never had a punt blocked in the NFL, but if I had kicked that one, I would have," he said. "Let's face it, the pressure of coming off the injury and the bad weather hurt me. The ball dropped, I swung my leg and didn't connect."
Michel has a blown-up picture of himself missing the ball, which hangs in his bedroom.
"It just reminds me of how far I think I've come," he said. "I can average 42 yards a kick. If I do, I can kick in this league."
Beathard said he hoped to have his first meeting today with Richard Bennett, who represents No. 1 draft choice Art Monk. "I don't anticipate a difficult time signing Art," he said . . . Asked if the reported $2 million contract signed by receiver Lam Jones with the Jets would affect the negotiations, Beathard said: "Don't believe everything you read about every contract." . . . Monk was the only draftee not at yesterday's camp . . . Added players at the camp included center Dan Peiffer, who last was with Chicago, and rookie free-agent safety Mark Anderson of Michigan State, safety Mark Freeman of Rutgers, defensive end Chris Godfrey of Michigan, fullback Ron Harkliss of Nichols State, defensive tackle Pat Ogrin of Wyoming, receiver Steve Stapler of San Diego State and tackle Jerry Scanlan of Hawaii . . . Cornerback Jeris White, obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay, was at the Park watching films.