Best receiver or not, 49ers' Randy Moss has matured

Veteran still seeking first Super Bowl ring, but he is learning his role in San Francisco's offense

January 29, 2013|Mike Preston

NEW ORLEANS — The San Francisco 49ers' Randy Moss said Tuesday that he is the best wide receiver to ever play in the National Football League.

On Sunday night, he might not even be the best receiver in the game, but he could have the biggest impact.

No offense to Moss, he is probably the second best receiver in history. Statistically, only Jerry Rice is better when it comes to receiving touchdowns (197 to 156) and Moss' 15,292 receiving yards are third behind Rice's 22,895 and Terrell Owens' 15,934.

And then there is this little issue of Super Bowl rings. Rice has three, and Moss has zero. Case closed.

But that could change Sunday night in Super Bowl XLVII.

After a year of retirement, the 35-year-old Moss signed with San Francisco this season and he could finally get a Super Bowl ring to possibly finish off a 14-year Hall of Fame career.

"It's actually a dream, really," said Moss, one of the few players on both teams who could command as much media attention as Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "By me taking a year off and having to work out for almost a whole year, being able to come back and be in the Super Bowl one year later is just a dream."

When asked if he plans on coming back to play another season, Moss said he wants to, but the focus is on Sunday night.

Here's one title he definitely can own: Moss is the greatest decoy in the history of the NFL.

He caught only 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, but he still commands respect.

He is still in remarkably good shape, and his size — 6 feet 4, 215 pounds — still gives him an advantage. At an age when most players have lost a step or two, Moss still runs the 40-yard dash in 4.25.

The Ravens don't want to get "Mossed" in the Super Bowl, a term used to describe his catches over defensive backs.

"He is still Randy Moss," Ravens cornerback Corey Graham said. "That in itself says something. He has been great in this game for so long and been able to do things few other players can do. Unfortunately for us, he can still do them, and he has great spring in his legs.

"You never know with this team because he can still go over the top and make big plays," Graham said. "Wherever he is on the field, we've got to be aware and concerned."

The addition of Moss may have put the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

A year ago, they had a strong running game and a decent short- to mid-range passing game, but they didn't have a vertical threat or a quarterback with a strong enough arm to put fear in opponents.

Because of Moss and his speed, opposing defenses had to put a safety over top to double-team him. The 49ers use Moss outside and in the slot. He is a threat from any alignment.

Not only did the addition of Moss open up the passing game, but it opened up the field for fourth-year receiver Michael Crabtree, who went over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time and had a career high nine touchdown passes.

And here's the kicker: Moss never complained.

It's the truth. He may have been a prima donna with the Minnesota Vikings, alienated the media as a member of the New England Patriots and didn't work hard with the Oakland Raiders, but he simply accepted his role in San Francisco.

He doesn't like it, but…

"I don't," Moss said. "I like to be out there playing football. One thing that I've always had to really understand was being a decoy. It was put to me, Coach Dennis Green just said, 'Even though the football is not in your hand, you're still out there dictating how the defense is playing the offense.' It took me a while to really understand where he was coming from.

"Later on and now in my career, I understand that my presence on the field, I don't always have to touch the ball to be able to help the offense score touchdowns," Moss said. "I've always been a team player. I've never been about self. Anything that is going to push our team to victory and hopefully win a Super Bowl, I'm willing to do."

Hmmm…

Let's just say Moss has matured. Regardless of the teams for which he has played, Moss has always been respected by his teammates. As one of the elder statesmen this season, he has spent plenty of time before, during and after practices teaching the younger receivers about running routes, positioning and even blocking.

When outside linebacker Aldon Smith was named the team Most Valuable Player recently, he was asked who he voted for and he replied Moss.

"He is one of the greatest receivers to ever play," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "When Aldon said Moss, that speaks volumes about what the players feel about his contributions."

Crabtree said: "He plays a big role. His voice alone gets you hyped. Him being around just brings the best out of us. I could honestly see Randy Moss standing on the stage like Charles Barkley or one of those guys that just speaks their mind because his personality is amazing."

Before the 49ers left San Francisco for New Orleans, it was Moss who lectured them about this being a business week, not just to have fun. There are a lot of 49ers who want to win this game for Moss.

"I'm happy for Randy. I'm very happy for him because he's been in this league for years now and still hasn't won a Super Bowl," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (Maryland) said. "He's finally at the stage where he can really make some things happen with this team and I'm very happy for him."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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