In the heat of summer, Washington Redskins' kicker Mark Moseley breathes easily now. Perhaps this is because there are no doubts and no rookie kickers named Dan Miller to challenge him this training camp.
Or perhaps it is because Moseley converted his first 20 field-goal attempts and won the league's most valuable player award last year that his respiratory system avoids the wheezes that cause most 35-year-old professional football bodies to take sick leave on the NFL waiver wire.
Likely, it is both.
"Really, the notoriety wasn't as great as I thought it would be, being the league's MVP," said Moseley, entering his 10th year as Redskins field goal kicker. "I look at the most valuable player in baseball or other football MVPs of the past and when they made it, people knocked their doors down for endorsements. I haven't had that. I guess it's because of the position I play. It's not real macho."
In an occupation where pink slips seemingly come as often as paychecks, Mark Moseley is a straight-on kicking traditionalist and a gutty Texan survivalist.
"Kicking field goals is a lot like driving a car. If you get into one accident, people don't want to drive with you," said Moseley, cut by Philadelphia in 1971 and by Houston in 1972. "It's like they lose confidence in you and they either put on their seat belts or they drive with someone else."
For most of these last 10 years, Mark Moseley has been driving steady, having converted 82 percent (107 of 130) of his field goals from 40 yards or less. "He's got the strong leg and the strong will," said Wayne Sevier, Redskins special teams coach. "He is so tough when it comes to kicking game-winners, too. There have been a lot of successful kickers in this league who have had great careers, but don't kick game-winners. When Mark goes out to kick a game-winner, I don't even have butterflies."
Moseley became the Redskins' field goal kicker in 1974 and since then, there have been 76 kickers come, then go, then come again in the NFL. In Moseley's time with the Redskins, New Orleans has had 10 field goal kickers and once had running back Tony Galbraith kick a 34-yarder in 1978. Buffalo has had seven field goal kickers since 1974.
Though a leg injury caused Moseley to miss two games at the end of the 1974 season (Mike Bragg filled in), he hasn't missed a regular-season game since, making his the longest uninterrupted field goal kicking streak in the league.
Both Pat Leahy of the New York Jets (who missed much of 1979) and Jon Smith of New England (who missed much of 1978 and of last year) also started kicking for their teams in 1974 and are still with those same teams, but have missed large portions of various seasons because of injuries.
Jan Stenerud enters his 17th year of kicking, but not for the same team (he went from Kansas City to Green Bay in 1980).
"I don't think there is any reason I can't be kicking in 1990," said Moseley, who along with Minnesota's Rick Danmeier is the only straight-on kicker in the NFL. "I'm 35 years old now, but my leg is a lot stronger than most 25-year-old kickers. I'm probably in as good shape as I've ever been."
When you add his 20 straight field goals to start last year (he made 20 of 21 overall in the regular season) with the three field goals he kicked at the end of the 1981 season, Moseley's 23 straight field goals broke Garo Yepremian's previous record of 21 for Miami.
And when you consider that Moseley succeeded in the rain in Tampa Bay and the sleet and snow in RFK Stadium (remember the 42-yarder that broke the record and the New York Giants, 15-14, with eight seconds left in the falling snow at RFK?) it's no wonder he was on "Good Morning, America," as well as the front page.
"It was like something out of a 1920 Hollywood script," says Mark Murphy, the Redskins' free safety.
Though Moseley made only four of eight field goals in the postseason, Sevier noted, "There had to be a slight letdown. No person could do what Mark did during the regular season and not suffer any kind of letdown. And most of his misses then didn't mean anything, anyway."
"Mark is unique," says Redskins' linebacker Monte Coleman, citing Moseley's rare year-to-year consistency (his 95.2 percent field goal accuracy last year set an NFL regular-season record).
If you consider his kicking traits, though, Moseley is anything but unique: he wears both shoes, speaks English as his native tongue and kicks from straight ahead. Sure, he wears three pair of socks and three rolls of tape on his foot. But that's not really so peculiar, is it?
"I think most people still expect all kickers to speak a foreign language," said Moseley. "I guess I do have a little Texas twang."
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Moseley's record season was that he almost wasn't around to have it. Because Moseley had missed the first field goal attempt of games eight different times in 1981, the Redskins took a long look at rookie Miller last year, while Moseley took a deep breath.
"There was a point last year when I thought Dan Miller was ahead," said Sevier.
Then came the final exhibition game at Cincinnati, when Miller missed field goal attempts from 45 and 37 yards. He was off to the taxi squad, then was cut. In the end, the Redskins were not afraid to get in the passenger seat, alongside Mark Moseley.
Coach Joe Gibbs still insists today, "The only people who were in the meetings last year were the coaching staff and scouts. It was never even close with Mark."
A Super Bowl ring and several MVP honors later, perhaps it doesn't matter. Leave it for the history books.
Furthermore, since Moseley no longer kicks off for the Redskins, his leg strength has remained at optimum levels. He still feels comfortable from 52 yards out, he says, though Gibbs has entrusted Moseley with only one attempt from farther than 50 yards in his two years and Moseley missed it.
"But if they put the ball back on the 20-yard line after every missed field goal, like they used to, instead of to where the kick was missed from," said Sevier, "we'd try Mark from 54 yards all the time."
Looking back to last year's MVP, then forward to 1983, Moseley said, "It will be difficult for me to repeat last year. I've always thought it was impossible to make every field goal you try in a season. But I really think I can kick for many more years. I know that the older you get, the more reason a team has for getting rid of you."
After looking at films today of Saturday's 21-10 scrimmage loss to Baltimore, Gibbs said, "We looked at some of the young guys on the (offensive) line and there were breakdowns. Some guys got beat." Gibbs praised Don Laster, 300-pound offensive guard/tackle, for his versatility and his ability to cope with dehydration problems. "If Donnie can play guard and tackle, that could really help us" . . . Gibbs said the Redskins will make several cuts from their 92-man roster Monday . . . When the Redskins open the exhibition season Saturday night in Atlanta, Gibbs said rookie running backs Marcus Gilbert and Richard Williams will be tested . . . All remaining Redskins' practices will be closed to the public.