Ali Haji-Sheikh has seen Jess Atkinson go from crutches to slight limp to an all-out battle for the Washington Redskins' kicking job. Haji-Sheikh isn't complaining about the duel, but he thinks he's had "a pretty decent" season.

"I've been through three snappers and two holders," he said yesterday at Redskin Park. "If we didn't bobble that last snap {in Minnesota with the game tied in the final seconds of regulation}, there's no way I was going to miss that kick. Not from that close {33 yards}.

"I would've been on 72 percent for the year {if he'd made the kick}, and there's {not many} kickers in the conference at that percentage, so judge for yourself."

Actually, the judge will be Coach Joe Gibbs, who has ordered Haji-Sheikh and Atkinson -- the Redskins' kicker until he dislocated his left ankle in the season opener -- to kick field goals side by side until the end of next week. At that time, Gibbs will pick a kicker for the playoffs.

Gibbs said Wednesday that Haji-Sheikh's kicking hasn't been terrible (he's 29 of 32 on extra points and 13 of 19 on field goals, including two game winners), but Atkinson is healthy and can't be ignored.

Haji-Sheikh hinted yesterday that this duel might never have come about if he'd made more of his kicks.

"I thought it all would hinge on how I was doing," said Haji-Sheikh, who previously kicked with the New York Giants. "That's the way I've surmised it all along. When things are going pretty well, you generally don't like to switch horses. But I guess it's up to someone else to make the decision on whether things are going well or not."

Gibbs spoke with Haji-Sheikh on the telephone Wednesday night, but Haji-Sheikh would not discuss their conversation. In a way, Haji-Sheikh has been the victim of circumstance this season, what with inconsistent blocking, snapping and holding on kicks.

Of his three missed extra points, one was blocked (against Philadelphia), one was the result of a bad snap (against Atlanta) and one hit the upright (against the Rams).

The snappers have been -- in order -- Jeff Bostic, Darryl Grant and David Jones. The holders have been Eric Yarber and Jay Schroeder.

"It's not overly difficult, but there is a change," Haji-Sheikh said when asked to explain the effects of different snappers and holders. "Some guys are faster than others {on snaps} . . . Jay's done a pretty good job this year {holding}. We had some protection problems early on, but we got those worked out."

Haji-Sheikh -- like Atkinson -- says he's been in kicking competitions before.

"One thing I've got to keep in mind is a lot of it is still up to me and how well I kick," he said. "I think I've seen enough around here to know that whoever kicks the best is going to be kicking. Right now, from what I've read, part of what's in {Gibbs'} thoughts is the four games Jess has played for the Redskins. He's seven for seven, I guess. But that's four games.

"Like I've said, it's been a very satisfying season, to get in the playoffs and to be on a division-winning team. I've made some important kicks."