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Moss gets step closer to playing

Randy Moss, on the practice field yesterday, hopes to be on the field against the Jets Sunday. Randy Moss, on the practice field yesterday, hopes to be on the field against the Jets Sunday. (ROSE LINCOLN/FOR THE GLOBE)

FOXBOROUGH - Wearing a black bandanna, and with a towel wrapped around his neck and tucked into his gray sweatshirt, Randy Moss stepped to the middle of the Patriots locker room yesterday to shed light on one of the team's more pressing issues: his health.

Stopping short of announcing that he'll play in Sunday's season opener against the Jets, Moss said there have been no setbacks in his recovery from a tweaked hamstring - and, indeed, later in the day he was on the practice field with his teammates. He also explained that his monthlong absence was a decision made with the long haul in mind.

"I think it was the approach to really try to fix and heal my leg up and really not have it lingering throughout the season," he said. "That was the main thing they wanted me to do, that when I do go out there, I'm ready to go."

The return of Moss, who was dominating an Aug. 1 practice before pulling up on a long throw from quarterback Tom Brady, coincided with the Patriots releasing Reche Caldwell yesterday.

After missing all four preseason games, Moss came back to practice Sunday. While his return represents a positive step, he knows it only matters if he's on the field for a game that counts.

"I will not be satisfied until I'm out there with the boys," he said. "That's what I do. I don't cut checks. I don't shine shoes. I don't tape ankles. I play football. That's what I came here to do, so by me to not be able to do what I love to do, of course it's going to be frustrating."

Asked if he's pleased with how he feels at this point, Moss said, "For the most part, I'm happy with where I am. The main thing that is really worrying me is how good of game shape I'm in. It's really getting adjusted to the tempo of how they play here in New England and really going out and executing the play that's called.

"I'm not really worried about my conditioning. I'm just really worried about fitting in and making sure I don't let this team slow down because of me."

If Moss has his choice, he'll be on the field Sunday.

"My thing is that I want to play," he said. "Will I play? I don't know. We'll just leave it at that."

The last month was not an easy one for Moss; he said it was the first time in his 10-year career that he missed the majority of training camp.

"It was a long, lengthy process," he said. "Of course, it got me very frustrated because I had really high expectations for myself to come in here and be a part of the team. I didn't really get any preseason play, and I don't know if that helped me or hurt me. We'll see.

"This offseason, with the minicamps and the passing camps and everything, I really tried to focus on getting the plays down and making sure they can count on me in any situation. For me, to have a month off, and not being able to practice and go out there and playing games and competing, that's what was frustrating."

Moss said he was still part of all the team meetings, but when his teammates were practicing, he was receiving treatment. He credited the team's training staff, which includes Jim Whalen, Joe Van Allen, and Dave Granito.

"They had to do their job and definitely tell me what to do, what not to do, and I did abide by their rules," he said, adding that he has "graduated" from receiving treatment. "They did a hell of a job of getting me rehabilitated and getting me back and getting me back to the practice field."

Asked what he would say to fans clamoring for his return, Moss said he understands where they are coming from.

"I really want to be a part of it, so I'm really as anxious as they are," he said. "The only thing I can really say is that when I get out there, I will be out there ready to play. I guess I'm as excited as they are."

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

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