NEW ORLEANS – Randy Moss said he hates his role with the San Francisco 49ers.
Moss said he's a better wide receiver than Jerry Rice.
Moss said he doesn't care to apologize for anything he has done in the past, not even to himself.
It all made perfect sense after listening to everything Moss said Tuesday at the annual Super Bowl media day. It was all logical, respectful and even measured, including the part about being better than Rice or any other receiver.
As easy as it would be to dismiss Moss as the same angry young man he was a decade or so ago, he sounds like anything but that. At 35, he has become the antithesis of that common perception. While Moss isn't (and probably never will be) open, he was engaging, humorous, and, most of all, filled with perspective that most people wouldn't expect.
What the NFL heard from Moss on Tuesday – which was important because Moss rarely talks – is a man who gets it. The guy who seemed to turn it on and off throughout his career and who got into a string of silly incidents along the way sounded more like a wise veteran.
Start with the fact that he doesn't like what he's doing, yet he's willing to do it.
"I don't like my role, I really don't," Moss said. There was no tone, no snarl, no hint of resentment.
"The thing that I've always had to understand was being a decoy. … Coach Dennis Green up in Minnesota said to me, '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, now in my career, I understand that my presence on the field, I don't have to always touch the ball to help the offense score touchdowns. So, like I say, I don't really like that, but it's something I'm used to and I have to grow to understand it and like it."
Moss walked away from the game after a terrible 2010 season, during which he was traded from the team he loved (New England), lasted only four games with Minnesota before he was cut and finished the season with eight unmemorable games with Tennessee.
He spent last season fishing, hanging with his family and watching football on Sundays.
"I still love football. It's hard to get away from it, it really is," Moss said.
Before returning to the NFL, he had to clear it with one particular person in his family.
"I told my 18-year-old daughter – she's a freshman at the University of Florida – I asked her if it was OK to get back into football and she said, 'Dad, I don't even know why you quit the game.'
"For her being older, I had to really sit down and explain to her the importance of family and how much I loved her and what I've sacrificed all these years so they are able to have and able to do. After I explained to my mom, I had to explain to her, 'If I come back to this game, you're not going to see me as much,' [like] she didn't earlier in her life. She said, 'Dad, if you come back to the game, I want you to win the Super Bowl because I'm going to the University of Florida to win the national championship [in women's basketball].
"That really made me smile because I've never really heard my daughter talk like that. For her to be able to tell me that face-to-face, well I'm on the verge of winning my first Super Bowl. Hopefully we'll get [it] and then she'll get her national championship."
Against that warm story, he alternately put on a fearless pose of a man who knows he changed the game and wasn't afraid to say it. At three different times, Moss reiterated that he was the best wide receiver of all time.
On any team but San Francisco's, Moss's remark might be only a murmur of controversy. On the 49ers, it is almost heresy since Rice holds just about every prominent receiving record in NFL history and has rings to crown the numbers.
"Now that I'm older, I do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it," Moss said. "I don't think numbers stand because you can talk about this and this … I don't live on numbers. I really live on impact. So I really do think I'm the best receiver to ever play this game."
In each of his first 12 seasons (and 13 of his 14 overall), Moss has had at least one catch of 50 yards or longer. No other receiver has ever done that. In Moss's mind that defines his impact.
"Jerry has a good argument," Moss said. "[But] what other receiver forced defenses to drop two safeties all the time and even put three or four guys deep on every play and still got it done? That's what I'm talking about impact."
It's not the best argument, but it isn't baseless. At the same time, Moss knows that his career was marred by a reputation of destructive behavior. He was traded three times in his career and cut by one team. That doesn't happen to guys who play nice with management. He's the author of the famous "Straight Cash Homey" quote, pretended to moon the crowd in Green Bay and acted like a jerk to staff people along the way.
He wouldn't apologize for it. At the same time, he tried to make amends. In 2011, Moss attended funeral services for Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Bob Kraft. The gesture caught many in the organization off guard, in a pleasant way.
"I think that for everything that Mrs. Myra Kraft stood for, she easily could have convinced her husband not to bring me in as a Patriot," said Moss, who regards his time in New England as the best period of his career. "I heard when I was coming there that she had that kind of say. So for her to let me come there and do the things I did, I had to pay my respect to her … for the people who have done great things for me in my career, I definitely have to pay my respects back."
Give Moss credit. After all these years, he seems to get it.
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