Moss making noise — on the field
Big play has his hands all over it
FOXBOROUGH — Randy Moss has been seen quite a bit this preseason. He didn’t miss a practice in training camp. He signed autographs for fans after open practices. And in two preseason games entering last night, he caught four passes for 54 yards.
Moss surpassed that yardage total on the second of his three receptions last night in a 36-35 loss to the Rams, hauling in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter. He finished with 74 yards receiving. “We missed one last week, so you got to sit with that for a week,’’ Brady said. “Randy is tough, man. When he gets behind those guys there’s not many people that are catching him. It’s amazing to me how he catches that ball like he does. It’s so hard to do, to run full speed like he does, as fast as he does. Your head is bobbing up and down. It looks like there are three balls out there, and he just puts his hands up there like they’re baseball mitts. The ball never bobbles or anything like that. He’s an incredible player and athlete, and I’m glad he’s on our team.’’
Although Moss has been active in the preseason, he hasn’t been heard. Since the players reported to training camp July 29, Moss has not granted an interview to the media. The 33-year-old receiver is not the center of attention off the field as he enters the last year of his contract with the Patriots. While Moss keeps to himself and his teammates, his play is expected to demand attention as he enters his 13th season.
In 1998, Moss was a first-round pick of the Vikings out of Marshall. Minnesota’s offensive coordinator was Brian Billick, who would leave the next season to become the head coach of the Ravens. But in that one season, Billick watched Moss haul in 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last season, Moss had 83 receptions for 1,264 yards and 13 TDs. His prominence in the Patriots’ offense doesn’t surprise Billick.
“I can’t think of another guy that dictated still at this point in his career, the coverage the way Randy Moss does,’’ said Billick, now a Fox analyst. “There will be those that say his skills have diminished and it’s not quite the same, and maybe it’s not, but it’s still pretty good. You better account for it or he’s going to beat you with it.’’
Moss hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. In the offseason, he fired his agent, Tim DiPiero, and in July signed with Joel Segal, whose clients include Reggie Bush and Chris Johnson. Moss signed a three-year, $27 million contract at the end of the 2007 season, when he made 98 catches for 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns. Billick said Moss remains an impact player.
“We overuse the term too often of impact player or superstar, but when you talk about the one guy on any given team that you have to account for, there’s really only a handful of them, and Randy Moss is still one of those guys,’’ Billick said. “He’s the most phenomenal individual talent that I’ve probably ever been around and I’ve been around some pretty good, talented players. There was no question in my mind for Randy to go to an organization as sound as the New England Patriots and more importantly with an established quarterback at the level Tom Brady represents, that it was an ideal scenario for him.’’
The Patriots are overflowing with receivers this season. With Wes Welker’s return after knee surgery in February, it may be the deepest position on the team. But Moss forces teams to game plan just for him.
“There’s only a handful of guys that can absolutely dictate coverage and Randy Moss is still one of those guys that you have to account for on every play,’’ Billick said. “The one time you don’t, and you match up one-on-one, [Brady’s] going to find him and you better have Darrelle Revis. You better have the best cover corner in the league if you’re just going to leave him one-on-one. Not only is he going to beat you, but Tom Brady will find him.’’
Earlier this month, Patriots coach Bill Belichick agreed with the assessment that Moss had had a strong camp. But Belichick didn’t believe there was anything different in Moss’s approach because of his age. Whatever Moss is doing seems to be working for him.
“I would say there is no real set formula, not just for him but for any player,’’ Belichick said. “You just have to put your team through some stress, two-a-days, heat, tougher practices, contact, running, whatever it is, and see how they respond individually and as a team. That’s good for everybody. It’s good to evaluate your team, but it’s good for each player to go through that and have the confidence themselves that, ‘I can be out there for a 12-play drive. I can have days of contact and my shoulders feel all right and my knees [feel all right]’ or whatever it is. It helps build the confidence of the players heading into the season. That’s why training camp is so important. It’s tough. It’s grueling. It’s no vacation, but it’s a necessary part of their preparation. It’s good for all of us. We all need it.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.