Kicker Tony Zendejas, who missed only one field goal inside the 40-yard line in 29 attempts during two U.S. Football League seasons, has signed a sizable three-year contract with the Washington Redskins and is expected to give 14-year veteran Mark Moseley, the second-oldest kicker in the National Football League, the fight of his football life.
"Mark Moseley's good. I'm good too," Zendejas, 25, said yesterday by phone from Los Angeles, where he executed his contract, including a signing bonus believed to be worth $100,000.
"I think the Redskins think I have a good chance of beating out Mark Moseley," said Zendejas, a first-team all-pro in the USFL in 1984 with the Los Angeles Express and the league leader in field goals with 26 this season.
"Moseley has always done well through the years and I have a lot of respect for him. He's been pretty consistent over the years. He's a competitor and I'm a competitor. It will be interesting to see what happens."
Moseley, 37 and a free agent, was giving a kicking clinic at Salisbury State College in Maryland yesterday and was unavailable for comment. However, when word of Zendejas' impending signing spread around Redskin Park during the team's May minicamp, Moseley brushed it off as just another summer challenge.
"Competition is fine with me," said Moseley, who figured the Redskins plan to use Zendejas as leverage in their contract negotiations with him.
"The way I feel, the way I'm working out . . . no way is he going to come in here and take my job away unless they just give it away."
General Manager Bobby Beathard, in Los Angeles on what has become a working vacation, offered few clues in what may become the most intense head-to-head battle of the Redskins' 1985 preseason.
"Mark is still the player who has to be beat out, as is any Redskin," Beathard said in a prepared statement. He was unavailable for further comment.
Moseley has had competition before, most memorably from University of Miami (Fla.) rookie Dan Miller in 1982. Miller pushed Moseley to the end of training camp before he was cut. Moseley went on become the league's most valuable player as the Redskins won the Super Bowl.
The current situation appears to be much more serious.
Zendejas said he received a $100,000 salary last season and $110,000 this season from the Express, plus a $90,000 signing bonus. His agent, Jeff Dankworth, said yesterday that the Redskins were going to pay Zendejas, their first-round selection in the NFL's 1984 supplemental draft, more than he made in the USFL, but would not say how much more. Zendejas' contract with the Express expired June 21.
His salary is not guaranteed, but the estimated six-figure signing bonus is. That is considered an unusually large amount of money for a kicker.
Zendejas, a Division I-AA all-America at Nevada-Reno, holds the USFL record for kicking field goals in 14 consecutive games, and shares the league record of 13 consecutive successful field goal tries. Moseley holds the NFL record with 23 consecutive successes -- all 20 in the 1982 regular season and the last three of 1981.
Moseley was kicking from the turf. Zendejas was using a one-inch rubber tee allowed by the USFL.
"To me, it's no difference," Zendejas said.
In another development yesterday, Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said that when Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs returns from vacation, he plans to contact Gibbs in another effort to reach a settlement in veteran free safety Mark Murphy's dispute with the team. Upshaw last met with Gibbs in May.
"He wants a fair opportunity to compete," Upshaw said of Murphy, who lost his starting job after an injury last season. "He wants some signal from the Redskins that they actually want him. They could extend his contract, renegotiate his contract, pay for his first year of law school (at Georgetown) if he makes the team . . . What he is saying is, 'If I make the team, this is what I get.' "
Murphy continued to decline comment on the dispute, which led him to miss minicamp.