Redskins have no kick with 'Mojo'

November 16, 1990|By Jack Mann | Jack Mann,Evening Sun Staff

HERNDON,VA. — HERNDON, Va. -- "Well, first we'll introduce ourselves to each other," Wayne Sevier said.

The Washington Redskins' special teams coach had been asked how he will array his troops to meet the New Orleans invasion after counting the casualties of Philadelphia.

Sevier was exaggerating, outrageously and facetiously, when he was interrupted by a phone call.

Actually, Sevier told the caller, he was pretty happy with the personnel he had. Anyway, he'd be interested only in somebody who had punted in the NFL. Call back after the season, OK?

Against the suddenly menacing Saints in RFK on Sunday, Sevier will have to cope without kick returners Joe Howard and Walter Stanley and probably without bullyboy Greg Manusky.

He will not be without punter Ralf Mojsiejenko, no matter what Sevier's petitioner thought.

And Mojo is still a big-league punter, no matter what the NFL statistics say.

They say he is the 18th-ranking punter in the league with an average of 39.7 in gross yardage, the statistic that gets in the papers.

Even in net yardage -- the statistic that matters -- his average is 35.0, or 13th best of the 26 punters listed.

Yesterday, for the first time since his right ankle was abused in the second quarter at Philadelphia Monday night, the left-footed Mojsiejenko tried punting. The distance was all right, but the ball didn't "turn over" really well.

In the four seasons he has coached Mojsiejenko (1987-88 at San Diego), Sevier has said he has "turned the ball over as well as anybody I've seen."

"That means the ball spirals on the way up," Sevier explained, "turns over and spirals on the way down."

Sevier said Mojsiejenko's overall season "could be characterized for him, a slump."

"He hasn't been hitting the ball really well," the coach said.

Nineteen days ago, after Mojo had an ostensibly so-so day in the 21-10 defeat by the Giants, Sevier said his performance had "bordered on superb."

All of the above are true. And Sevier has found explanations, if not excuses, for everything Mojsiejenko has done wrong.

For example, Mojo almost sold the farm Jeff Rutledge had just rescued when he shanked a punt in overtime and put the Lions in position to end it all.

"He short-armed it [didn't extend his arm to drop the ball]," Sevier said. "But he didn't have a punt in the second half of that game. So he hadn't punted for an hour and a half."

Generally, Sevier was saying last week, Mojsiejenko hasn't had enough opportunities to punt. "He had one against Phoenix," Sevier said, "none in the first game against the Giants. He hit the ball fine in practice, but you've got to punt in a game, competitively."

"Ideally," Mojo said, "I'd like to punt six or seven times a game. But I know: I'd be playing for a loser if I did."

The proposition was demonstrated at Philadelphia. While the Eagles were thumping the Redskins more emphatically than the 28-14 score will tell posterity, Mojsiejenko punted seven times.

The first time the snap came on a bounce. The second time the Eagles were swarming. The third was simply a poor punt. The fourth time the Eagles' Roger Vick "slid into" Mojo's right ankle, leaving it bruised and swollen.

So the gross average of 37.6 and the net of 33 weren't so horrible, considering. Mojsiejenko's 35.0 net is close to Sevier's "acceptable" 36.

If Mojsiejenko needed a saving grace, it would be the considerable distinction of being the only punter in the league who has not punted into the end zone.

He has landed 13 punts inside the enemy 20-yard line, tying him for the NFC lead with ex-Redskin Tom Barnhardt of New Orleans and Mike Saxon of Dallas. But only Mojo has given no touchbacks.

That was one of the charms of his near-superb game in the Meadowlands. Two of his punts were "pooch" punts, chip shots from short range, which were downed on the Giants' 3- and 1-yard lines. Another was a 44-yarder from scrimmage that extricated the Skins from a fourth-and-24 hole at their 12. And the one that wasn't so good wasn't so bad, a 36-yarder with only an 8-yard return by Dave Meggett.

Pooch punts hurt a punter's average, but good teams pooch-punt often, from what the TV guys call "good field position." In Mojsiejenko's "best" year, 1988, he punted 85 times for a 44.1 average. The Chargers lost 10 games.

Mark Rypien "looked good" in practice again, coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, and will surely start Sunday. Jeff Rutledge shared the work and may now be the only other quarterback active against New Orleans.

Gibbs has 'adjustment' session

The Washington Redskins underwent a collective attitude adjustment yesterday afternoon.

A few minutes after practice began all the players and coaches walked off to the dressing room, where they remained for 16 minutes. They emerged quietly.

Had Gibbs seen actions or attitudes on the field that did not please him?

"No," he said serenely. "It was just a little get-together among us. There were just some things I wanted to talk about."

"A chewing out? Whew. The worst I've ever seen," a veteran player said later. "About attitude, yeah, and about everything else."

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