Mark Moseley is not quite certain what free agency in the National Football League means; he is close to positive he will find out after kicking the Redskins to the NFC East championship yesterday.
So that 37-yarder from fairly firm mud with 93 seconds remaining against the no-longer-paper Cards was not quite business as usual for Moseley. Game on the line; championship on the line; also, career on the line.
Moseley dearly wants to remain a Redskin, he having established records and roots in Washington the last 10 years. His optimistic nature argues that will happen; his realistic side knows that even a semishank on his first vital effort in nearly a year could have been disastrous.
Rarely has a kick come closer to bisecting the space between the goalposts. Tom Watson's wedges never were more accurate. So lovely was the craftsmanship even Moseley would have admired it.
Had he seen it.
The instant Moseley launched the NFC East title winner, a Cardinal, Roy Green, crashed into him, possibly by accident. There Moseley was, fluttering awkwardly to earth himself as the ball flew majestically true.
This has happened quite a lot lately, and Moseley would like the NFL to do something about it. Already, his style of kicking is becoming extinct; he does not want to get buried alive.
"I got hit on every kick," Moseley said, "same as last week in Dallas. Every time I end up on the ground. It's getting dangerous back there. One of these times I'm gonna lose a knee."
Moseley keeps reminding officials that sidewinder kickers are able to avoid rushers by their very form. His straight-on style sends him in harm's way.
Kickers halfway expect to lose their minds, but hardly their limbs.
"They hit me hard and it snaps the knee," he said. "It doesn't look like it's hard, but it is. And it's illegal. I don't need people taking shots at me like that."
Lately, other shots taken at Moseley have been whispered: his range has decreased by perhaps 10 yards; his concentration no longer is nearly as consistent as it should be. Three years ago, he faced a mighty challenge for his job.
As protection in case these charges prove correct, the Redskins have established NFL rights to Tony Zendejas of the USFL Los Angeles Express. Moseley was polite about that in a dressing room interview, and then reminded Redskins officials who read:
"Even though the kid was good in college, he's still using a tee."
The implication hit hard, and Moseley wanted it to. Why trust some young leg untested on turf when the one who has brought glory and riches has years of high energy left.
"I'm hitting the ball better than I did 10 years ago," Moseley insists. "The ball's jumping off my foot now better than in training camp. I could go another 10 years if I wanted to."
In the leverage game of sport, Zendejas is management's weight; yesterday tips matters Moseley's way. The last time Moseley was under such pressure he delivered the 25-yarder that beat the 49ers and lifted the Redskins into their second straight Super Bowl.
Moseley dug himself a mental hole yesterday by botching an extra point after the Redskins' first touchdown; his eyes kept him from a hole that could have hurt both him and the Redskins' playoff hopes before the second of his three field goals.
"It was almost exactly where my plant leg would be," he said, "so what we did was move to an angle to the right of the center. (RFK Stadium) is not the best place in the world for kickers.
"Actually, it's terrible. Uneven and rough. They paint the mud to make it look good. We were able to tamp down a decent spot each time."
After more than 400 field goal tries since 1970, Moseley has experienced nearly everything imaginable for a kicker.
He has been forced to try the sort of near-impossible game winner Neil O'Donoghue missed yesterday; he has filed a grievance against the Redskins over semantics.
Moseley believes he kept breaking his own record for consecutive field goals after sailing past Garo Yepremian in 1982; the Redskins' position is that he added to one record.
It is about a $35,000 disagreement, and might get settled before Moseley's grandchildren tug at Santa's beard.
"It's been delayed till March of 1986," Moseley said with a laugh. "I'm told it might not actually be over till 1989. The thing I like to hear is announcers keep saying (Dan) Marino and (Charlie) Joiner are breaking their own records."
None of this publicly sours Moseley toward the Redskins. Neither does Joe Gibbs' choosing not to use him twice from 51 yards yesterday jab at his enormous confidence.
As he has so often, Moseley calmly removed his leg warmer exactly when Joe Theismann and Art Monk combined for a dramatic first down on third and 19 during that game-winning drive.
Everybody going crazy; time to go to work.
"It was nice to be vindicated," he said, alluding to the extra point. "Seems like those things keep haunting me. Why they happen, I don't know, except they all have been to the left. Even when I make 'em, they're to the left of center."
About his immediate future, beyond the playoffs, Moseley said he might owe it to himself to see what free agency might fetch; then again the Redskins might offer a deal too delicious to refuse.
"I've set the records here," he said. "I've also contributed off the field. I don't think they would want me to go somewhere else."
Just to make sure, Mark, don't miss again.