Jess Atkinson said from his hospital bed last night he did not think he was the victim of an intentional hit, but added that "something has to be done to protect the kickers. We're just real vulnerable out there, and what happened to me just shows they can really hang you out to dry."

What happened to Atkinson, the Redskins kicker, was this: he suffered a dislocated left ankle Sunday when he was hit by the Philadelphia Eagles' Andre Waters a split second after he kicked an extra point for a 10-0 first-quarter lead. Game officials threw a penalty flag on the play, but reconsidered and said Waters had been blocked into Atkinson by the Redskins' Rich Milot.

"They just have to change the rules," Atkinson said from Arlington Hospital. "When you're in that position, just finishing your kick, you are just so relaxed. You can't possibly brace yourself for something like that. A guy just can't get blasted like that."

Atkinson said "the pain was head and shoulders worse than anything I've ever experienced in my life. I was just screaming. I looked down {at his foot} and it was just dangling. It looked like {Joe} Theismann's leg. That scared me real bad."

He also said teammate Darrell Green immediately came over to him, held his hand and started praying with him. "He said, 'The Lord's with you,' " Atkinson said. "That made a big difference for me. It really calmed me down."

As he went off the field on a stretcher, Atkinson pumped his fist at his teammates. "I was telling them, 'Do what you have to do. Maybe they knocked me out, but they can't knock all you guys outta there.' I wanted 'em to know I wasn't going down easy."

Atkinson was taken to Arlington Hospital. He said last night that while he was anesthetized so the ankle could be put back into place, he has not actually had surgery. He will have another examination today at the Washington Hospital Center, at which time it will be decided if surgery is needed.

"The X-rays they've taken so far show there's a tiny little chip in the front of the bone," he said. "If this test Tuesday shows it's any bigger, they'll have to operate. Otherwise it will be in a cast. Right now, I'm in a cast up to my thigh. I've even been able to do some leg lifts to keep the quadriceps strong. I'm moving my toes. Hey, I want to play again this year."

But Atkinson admitted, "I've got a real long road to go. I can can tell you it's not gonna be any four to six weeks. But I feel good, I feel comfortable right now. I feel like getting it strong again, and I will. I worked too hard to win this job to let this stop me."

The Redskins yesterday signed Ali Haji-Sheikh to replace Atkinson. "That's ironic," Atkinson said, "because I replaced him two years ago when he got hurt up in New York. We're friends. He's a real good kicker. Just tell him he's gonna have some competition when I get better."