The third kicker of the Washington Redskins’ $100 million season is a 23-year-old undrafted rookie out of the University of Montana.
Kris Heppner signed a one-year, $193,000 contract yesterday to replace eighth-year veteran Michael Husted, who made just four of eight field goal attempts since supplanting injured Brett Conway in Week 3. Husted was released.
The latest change in kickers followed a four-man workout on a windy, brisk day at Redskin Park. Also taking part were veterans Doug Pelfrey and Chris Jacke, as well as 1999 Redskins draft pick Jeff Hall. Heppner hit nine of 11 field goals in the competition, and his shortest kickoff went to the 2.
“We just felt he was the best kicker, in terms of kickoffs and field goals,” coach Norv Turner said.
The workout was Heppner’s first since being released by the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago. He learned of the opportunity Monday night, after returning to his Missoula, Mont., home from bow-hunting whitetail deer.
“[My agent] said, ‘Hey, your plane leaves in an hour and a half,’ ” Heppner said with a laugh. “I still had my bow with me, my backpack on.”
Heppner says he won’t be fazed by his crucial role on the Redskins the most expensive team in NFL history and one of the most closely scrutinized. He is going to stay with his older sister, Tammy, who works at the Department of Defense.
“I’m not going to pick up the papers. I’m not going to read any of the news,” Heppner said. “I’m just going to go out and focus, and do what I’m best at.”
Heppner was let go by Seattle after missing a 34-yard field goal in a 20-12 win at San Diego. A Seahawks official said Heppner’s kickoffs also were lacking. Heppner finished 6-for-9 with Seattle, and was replaced by another undrafted kicker with no experience, Rian Lindell.
“It wasn’t [tough to be released], believe it or not,” Heppner said. “Everybody at home was so proud of me anyway, because I was such a long shot making it. Mentally I was more or less happy to be home.”
Heppner will earn about $125,000 on his prorated salary, but the Redskins actually gain about $165,000 in cap room because only part of Husted’s salary had to be guaranteed. The Redskins now have a little more than $400,000 in cap room.
This is the ninth kicker for Turner, who cut Chip Lohmiller his first season. Lohmiller was the Redskins’ kicker for seven years (1988-94), and prior to him the team got long tenures from Mark Moseley (1974-85) and Curt Knight (1968-73). Heppner’s position coach in Seattle, incidentally, was Turner’s former special teams coach, Pete Rodriguez (1994-97).
It remains possible that Todd Peterson could work out next week if he doesn’t sign with Kansas City and Heppner struggles. Peterson, 30, worked out with the Chiefs yesterday. He was cut by Seattle in the preseason and has not played because of a groin injury. The Redskins were interested in working out Peterson, who hit 81.8 percent of his attempts in five seasons with the Seahawks.
Husted leaves Washington despite having made two game-winners, including Sunday’s at Philadelphia. However, the 30-year-old missed two kicks of less than 35 yards, missed an extra point and had another kick blocked.
“That big bright thing came up this morning, and it’s going to come up tomorrow and the next day,” Husted said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Notes Running back Stephen Davis was supplanted by San Francisco’s Charlie Garner as the NFL’s leading rusher. Davis has 597 yards; Garner has 609. Also, Miami’s Trace Armstrong is the NFL’s sack leader (10), ahead of Washington left end Marco Coleman (nine). The Redskins offense still ranks sixth (365.2 yards); its defense moved up to fifth (267.2).