New chapter for Moss

Jason Cole
Yahoo! SportsJune 6, 2007

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As he stepped into a throng of reporters ready to capture his every word, Randy Moss was downright jovial.

At least by his standards.

"Fire away," the New England Patriots wide receiver said as he began taking questions.

If reporters were expecting a hint of the malcontent that some people have portrayed Moss to be, it wasn't going to surface.

On this Wednesday in June, Moss was a happy camper. Freed from two years of frustration in Oakland, Moss was focused, attentive and, well, seemingly happy.

"This is my first actual interview," Moss said. "It feels good. (It was) a long anticipation of getting here and getting to camp, getting around the guys and just seeing how this organization is run. I like everything that I've seen and hopefully I can just fit in."

That sounded simple enough and Moss did his best to make it all look good Wednesday. During one drill, Moss looked at wide receivers coach Nick Caserio and took in every word intently. He talked to teammates time and again to pick up the subtleties of certain plays.

And while he may not have been going full speed all the time, Moss looked very smooth and very graceful. Then again, this is June, when practice is about as relevant to the NFL season as Paris Hilton's wardrobe is in jail.

Good vibes being what they are, the Patriots are more than willing to cast their lot with Moss in what is an amazingly revamped wide receiver corps. Since the end of last season, when the Patriots came up short in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, New England has brought in four new receivers.

Moss – acquired from the Raiders during the weekend of the NFL draft – is the headliner, but the team also traded for Wes Welker and signed free agents Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington. The only active holdovers from last season are Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney (Chad Jackson is recovering from serious knee surgery).

"There's a lot of stuff out there that we're trying to work on," said Stallworth, who spent last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. "It's going to take some time, we know that. But I think we have a chance to be pretty special."

Much of that revolves around Moss and whether he can recapture the greatness he displayed over the first seven years of his career. During that time, he averaged more than 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns a season. Over the past two seasons in Oakland, Moss had 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns – combined.

Moss was slowed in Oakland, partly by a nagging hamstring problem. But former Oakland coaches Art Shell and Tom Walsh wonder if some of his injury woes were self-inflicted, as they lambasted Moss for not taking care of his body in a recent article in the Boston Globe. Others have questioned his work ethic, saying that Moss got by for much of his career on pure ability.

So given the baggage, critics wonder when will that side of Moss' character come out in New England? The Patriots are gambling that it won't, that Moss will fall in line behind coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and all the other players who have accomplished far more than him when it comes to winning titles.

"It's something that you dream of knowing that the New England Patriots sit high on a lot of people's charts and as a wide receiver to come in and play with the core guys, with Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk and the offensive line. It's a great group of guys that we have here on the field and off the field. That's something that I can really enjoy," Moss said.

Brady expressed similar sentiments.

"I've been excited to have him around. He's worked extremely hard, he's in the weight room every day, he's been here working out … I think it's a great receiver group," Brady said. "The thing I worry about is 'do you know what to do, do you try hard, and are you unselfish?' That to me makes a good receiver. It seems like he's all three of those things, as far as I'm concerned."

Brady is also pretty pleased with Welker, the former Miami Dolphins slot receiver who is projected to handle the role vacated by Troy Brown.

"Wes has killed us the last few years as a Dolphin, so it's nice to get him out of Miami and have him in a Patriot uniform. He's got great quickness, and he's very smart. I say he's like a Labrador out there; you throw the ball, and he runs and fetches it, and he runs back and sits in the huddle, and he looks up and he pants and there's sweat coming down his face … He works extremely hard and sets a great example," Brady said.

Likewise, Brady has showed some comfort with Stallworth as the two hooked up numerous times during practice Wednesday. Like Moss, who took a pay cut to join the Patriots, Stallworth signed what is basically an elaborate one-year, make-good contract. By itself, a contract can be enough incentive to keep guys like Moss and Stallworth on the straight and narrow.

For now, however, the question lingers. Can Moss be a good teammate? Can he keep from showing up Brady the way he showed up Daunte Culpepper in Minnesota and the many quarterbacks he played with in Oakland? Can he be part of a winner?

"I'm a 10-year veteran, I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I don't want a ring," Moss said. "This organization has three and the players know how hard they have the work to get back to that point. All I'm here to do is just to work hard everyday and just come out and hopefully I can just give something."