Brett Conway is the front-runner in the Washington Redskins' three-way place-kicking competition entering the team's final two preseason games.
Conway is scheduled to kick in the first half of Saturday night's game at Pittsburgh. Cary Blanchard is scheduled to kick in the second half, and Coach Norv Turner said yesterday that rookie Jeff Hall could get into the game if an opportunity arises.
Team sources indicated yesterday the club's decision-makers are leaning toward keeping Conway. The Redskins plan to cut one kicker next week, sources said, and then make a final choice after the Sept. 3 preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Turner had threatened earlier in training camp to sign a kicker after other NFL teams begin making cuts. But he said yesterday that the season-opening kicker likely will be Conway, Blanchard or Hall.
"The guys have kicked awfully well, all three of them, over the last 10 days," Turner said.
Conway has connected on all three of his field goal attempts during the preseason. Blanchard has made his only field goal try while Hall, the team's sixth-round draft choice from Tennessee, has missed his lone attempt, a 23-yarder in the preseason opener.
The Redskins went through three kickers last season, from Scott Blanton to David Akers to Blanchard. Conway served as a kickoff specialist after signing in the middle of the season. The Penn State product spent the 1997 season on the injured reserve list after the Green Bay Packers used a third-round draft pick to get him.
"I hope I can continue what I'm doing," Conway said. "I'm ready for it to be over. I'm confident in my abilities. . . . I think I have the stronger leg. It's just a matter of if they trusted me kicking field goals. I hope I've proved to them I'm accurate and I can help this team."
The Redskins have only a few battles for positions left to be settled. Andy Heck can clinch the starting left tackle job Saturday. Turner said yesterday he would like to have his starting offensive line in place before the preseason finale. Team officials are debating whether to cut tackle Joe Patton by the end of training camp.
Stephen Davis leads Skip Hicks in the competition for the starting tailback job, and Rodney Peete's experience continues to give him the edge over Casey Weldon for the number two quarterback spot.
The Redskins starters are scheduled to play about a half Saturday, although quarterback Brad Johnson probably will play less. Just-signed wide receiver Irving Fryar said yesterday he would like to play a quarter Saturday, but Turner indicated he's reluctant to put Fryar into a game so soon.
Turner and fullback Larry Bowie, who broke his left ankle during Wednesday's practice, said yesterday they're hopeful that Bowie will be able to play the second half of the upcoming season. But Bowie conceded the injury might have ended his 1999 season before it even began. "I hope to put a uniform back on this season . . . [but] I don't know for sure," said Bowie, who had his 1998 season ended by a fracture of the same bone. ". . . It's pretty devastating. I worked hard trying to get back to 100 percent. I wasn't there yet, but I was pretty close."
The Redskins do have some depth at the position to cover for the loss of Bowie. Free agent signee Larry Centers already was penciled in to be the team's starting fullback. Mike Sellers will play mostly at tight end Saturday with Stephen Alexander and Kevin Pesak injured, but he could inherit Bowie's job as the run-blocking fullback.
Davis filled in for Bowie last season, although Turner said yesterday he intends to keep Davis at tailback this year. Chad Dukes likely will get some playing time at fullback Saturday. . . . Barbara Frye, the secretary for outgoing general manager Charley Casserly, was told this week she'd been dismissed.