Some athletes are remembered through trophies and awards in their memory. Others rate monuments. Mark Murphy deserves more. You'd name a son for him.

Up front and out front, Murphy has managed eight more seasons in the National Football League than every team but the Redskins imagined when he went undrafted eight years ago.

He is that rare athlete whose off-the-field goodwill means more to his team even than making all-pro, which Murphy managed in 1983.

Sadly, though inevitably, Murphy is at that point in his career where he and management disagree on his worth. There are few more chilling words than what the Redskins seem to be telling him: "Show us you can still play."

That is not quite like Scribner's suddenly asking Hemingway to pass a grammar test, or the Indy 500 requiring A.J. Foyt to produce a driver's license. Murphy's star has twinkled more than dazzled.

Truth be known, pro football is as political as any other highly pressured, highly visible business. How management acts is far more important than what it says.

Free safety Murphy has been around long enough to be able to read more than what is between the linebackers, he having survived as a rookie free agent when classy veteran Brig Owens was being phased out.

The ominous signs are as old as leather helmets, as familiar as an end sweep: forcing a veteran to participate in rookie scrimmages, holding him out of exhibition games, whispering "he's lost a step."

Some argue that Murphy arrived from Colgate a step slow, that his mind and aggressive tackling overcame a lack of blinding speed. When he returned from an injury last season, quite a while after he believes he was healthy, Murphy was reduced to special teams.

Too much should not be made too soon of the disagreement between Murphy and the Redskins. Though it rather sounds like one, this is not an athletic obituary.

Murphy is bright enough to have given the Redskins much more than he has taken, and bold enough to buck owner Jack Kent Cooke as player representative during the strike-shortened '82 season.

That ordeal brought Murphy more attention than his 27 career interceptions, and he was refreshingly thoughtful and reasonable to frustrated fans livid over no games.

He also quietly accepted the humiliation Cooke threw at him in remarks during the annual welcome-home luncheon. To teammates willing and eager to walk out on Cooke, Murphy signaled no.

The constant uncertainty that sometimes approaches paranoia in pro games has caused Murphy to wonder if his union work led to his demotion late last season and to the team's present show-me attitude.

Cooke denies it. Gibbs practically boils at suggestions that Cooke ordered him either not to play Murphy or in a lesser role.

Anyone desperate for a judgment on that one had better search elsewhere. Sorry, I flunked mind reading in college.

But Murphy's worries are well-founded, for a remarkable number of player representatives about the league get cut after long and bitter negotiations. The most recent hit list, according to union sources: Sam McCullum, Don Hasselbeck, Beasley Reece and John Bunting.

For the Redskins' part, they were 7-2 during the regular season while Murphy was inactive and 4-1 with him playing only on special teams.

Football can be so subjective about these matters, especially on defense. Interceptions often are the most overrated stats, caused lots of times more by a fierce pass rush than exceptional coverage.

Whatever, Murphy has been a critical part of an extraordinary defense over the years. Very likely, he wants the sort of secured security others in similar situations have demanded -- and received.

To the Redskins' show-me challenge, Murphy might well have countered: "Show me that I'll get a fair chance." That usually gets resolved through some sort of guaranteed money.

If a publisher pays a considerable sum up front, books get published -- and publicized. Same with a football player. Being under contract, as Murphy is, still means having to make the team.

An additional guarantee means that younger -- and cheaper -- labor will not win out without a 15-round fight.

Murphy will be 30 by the time training camp begins; more and more, the NFL is becoming a game of speed.

Gibbs and Murphy have been in touch often lately. The coach said: "We've earnestly spent lots of hard times . . . trying to work our way through (Murphy's concerns)."

Like any other for-profit endeavor, the idea with the Redskins is to provide the best possible product at the lowest possible price. And those who judge Murphy are themselves being judged by Cooke.

Most veterans in Murphy's position want to know whether going through several months of preparation for a job that might not exist, come the regular season, outweighs getting an early start on another career.

Murphy's missing this week's minicamp would leave Gibbs "pessimistic" about his future, the coach said.

"I'd like for it to be smoother," Gibbs added, "but that's not always the case. If it can't be worked out, it's an opportunity for someone else."

As an older Mark Murphy fully realizes, there always is a younger Mark Murphy lurking nearby.