Ali Haji-Sheikh, the Washington Redskins' fourth kicker in 11 months, kept his new team waiting yesterday. He was expected at Redskin Park around 2 p.m. He arrived at 7 p.m. The Redskins have kicking trouble. Their kicker had car trouble.
Once he arrived from New Jersey in his Volkswagen, Haji-Sheikh politely explained that he had a problem with a hose under his hood and finally fixed it with plumbing parts. He knew what to do because, aside from being a National Football League kicker off and on the last four years, he sells Volkswagens during the offseason.
That's a job he won't be returning to, at least for now. Haji-Sheikh was watching the Redskins play Philadelphia on television Sunday when he saw Jess Atkinson suffer a dislocated left ankle when he was run into by the Eagles' Andre Waters. Haji-Sheikh, who was cut by Atlanta before the season began, agreed to terms with the Redskins Monday, and today will practice with the team. He will face the Falcons (0-1) when the Redskins (1-0) play at Atlanta Sunday at 1 p.m.
Haji-Sheikh said he has received "no indication" how long he will be with the Redskins.
Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday he still has not reached a decision on whether he will place quarterback Jay Schroeder on injured reserve. Schroeder suffered a sprained right shoulder in Sunday's game. "He felt pretty good about it today," Gibbs said, "but we'll just take it a few more days and see."
After 13 years of stability with Mark Moseley, the Redskins have had a run of bad luck and inconsistency in their kicking game in the past year.
When Moseley was released Oct. 13, 1986, the Redskins signed Max Zendejas. He lasted only two months before being placed on injured reserve in the midst of a terrible slump, and Atkinson was signed to replace him. Atkinson didn't miss an extra point or field goal in the regular season and playoffs, and appeared to be the team's answer at kicker until he was injured Sunday.
"It's something similar to what happened in New York after my injury," Haji-Sheikh said. The person who replaced Haji-Sheikh when he injured his hamstring in 1985 with the Giants was Atkinson.
Before Haji-Sheikh arrived yesterday, the Redskins tried out three other kickers: free agents Rolf Benirschke, Florian Kempf and Steve Willis. Wide receiver Eric Yarber worked as the holder, his new job with Schroeder out. Yarber held for one kick Sunday -- the one in which Atkinson was injured. Schroeder returned to hold, but the job now is Yarber's, said special teams coach Chuck Banker.
Gibbs said the Redskins worked out several linebackers and running backs yesterday to keep tabs on available talent, especially at running back now that George Rogers (sprained right shoulder) is out a minimum of four games. This is something the Redskins do often throughout a season and had "nothing to do with" fielding a new team in the event of a players strike, Gibbs said.