NEW ORLEANS -- Randy Moss isn't camera shy - he just doesn't care for the media. His San Francisco 49ers teammates loud his veteran leadership, and the veteran wide receiver was refreshingly candid during Media Day for Super Bowl XLVII on Tuesday.
He's 35 years old and has clearly lost a step - or two. Moss caught just 28 passes for 434 yards during the regular season despite playing in every game. His previous career-low for a full season was 60 in 2005, and he had never before failed to top 1,000 receiving yards in a 16-game season, much less than 500.
To say Moss has embraced his reduced role as a playmaker would be an overstatement, but he does appreciate his importance to the 49ers' offense even when he's not catching the ball.
"I don't like my role, I really don't," he said. "I like to be on the field playing football.
"I understand that my presence out on the field, I don't always have to touch the ball to be able to help the offense score touchdowns. Like I said, I don't really like that, but it's something that I'm used to. I have to grow to understand and grow to like it. I've always been a team player. I've never been about self."
Moss does have an opinion about his place in football history.
"I think now that I'm older, I do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it," Moss said. "This year has been a down year for me, statistically. The year before I retired was a down year, and then in Oakland was a down year. I don't really live on numbers. I really live on impact and what you're able to do out on that field. I really do think that I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game."
That quote quickly made the rounds on the blog circuit, but that's not the essence of what Moss was about Tuesday. And it certainly wasn't the vibe he brought to the 49ers over the offseason after sitting out the 2011 season.
After a difficult 2010 season in which he caught just 28 passes while playing for three different teams, Moss decided to sit out the following year to focus on his family. He returned this season to chase that elusive Super Bowl ring, and has served as a mentor on a young 49ers team.
"He's just been a great influence," said 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith. "You get there in the morning, and he's already out there running. It has been great to see how he goes about his business.
Moss has spent significant time working with the 49ers' younger receivers. Michael Crabtree, the team's first-round pick in 2009, posted career highs for the fourth consecutive season with 85 catches and 1,105 receiving yards.
"His voice alone gets you hyped," Crabtree said of Moss. "Him being around just brings the best out of us.
"It's every day. It's in the locker room and on the field. Day to day, is day to day with Randy Moss. 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."
That personality has often clashed with the media, which over the years has labeled him as everything from being a diva to being moody to being difficult to work with. Moss said he has attempted to open up more this year, not for the media but for the fans he acknowledges makes the NFL thrive.
As for the media?
"I haven't been an ass kisser and sold myself," he said. "You have a job to do. Some people like me, some people don't -- for what reason I don't know, and I don't really care.
"A lot of things are sold on negativity. If that's what you're looking for, I'm not the one to find."
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has repeatedly praised Moss' veteran leadership throughout the course of the season, and said this week he hopes Moss will return in 2012. Whether that happens or not could hinge on whether Moss finally gets his hands on that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
Moss didn't say he would walk away from the game again if the 49ers win on Sunday, but it's clearly a missing part of his personal football resume.
"I think that what I've accomplished in my professional career and throughout my whole life of playing football, I've really wanted a championship on every level," he said. "I've always told myself that I wanted to win a championship on this level. Having a Super Bowl ring, I think my career would be complete."
--Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard made headlines this week with his prediction that the NFL will not be in existence in 30 years due to the concern over player safety and the rules changes it will inevitably bring.
Asked where he thought the NFL will be in 30 years, 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said, "It might be flag football ... probably."
--Smith will have surgery after the Super Bowl to fix the elbow/triceps injury he has been playing through during the playoffs.
"It feels alright," he said. "It's coming along and I'll be ready to get it fixed next week. It's holding up alright.
He admitted the brace he is forced to play with "definitely limits you."
--Linebacker Patrick Willis wears No. 52, and sounds ready to accept the "torch" as one of the best linebackers in the NFL after the Ravens' No. 52, Ray Lewis, retires following Sunday's game.
"Passing the torch isn't what people make it sound like," said Willis. "Ray Lewis has played at such a high level, with such passion for so long. That's the kind of torch I'm willing to accept, and so are other linebackers.
"I just want to have that kind of effect."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I guess if I said yes I wouldn't be very confident in our defense." -- Willis, when asked if the 49ers would not be able to stop quarterback Colin Kaepernick if he played on another team.