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Is San Francisco 49ers WR Randy Moss a Late-Season 'Secret' Weapon?

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COMMENTARY | Fans who gushed with excitement following the free agent signing of Randy Moss have found little to remain optimistic about regarding the future Hall-of-Famer through four weeks of the 2012 season, despite the San Francisco 49ers' success and 3-1 record.

That's because Moss has not been a big part of the offense after being highly-regarded as the team's best receiver throughout training camp. His paltry numbers -- eight catches for 88 yards and one touchdown -- and limited snap count through four games suggest that he's not a major part of the team's plans. Moss has played just 80 snaps in regular season action with the 49ers.

According to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, Niners' head coach Jim Harbaugh is not limiting Moss' snaps in order to keep his legs fresh for later in the season, so there goes that theory out the window.

What then, is his purpose in San Francisco, and how does he fit in with this particular team? Is he supposed to be an inspirational leader? Hardly. If the coaching staff isn't planning to 'unleash' Moss at any point this season, then perhaps they would be better served to work their No. 1 pick, A.J. Jenkins, into the mix and get him some reps if he's going to be a part of the future.

Despite Moss' willingness to take on a reduced role, it's only a matter of time before he does something to undermine the team or that could become a distraction. For a team as focused as the 49ers, that can only prove to be detrimental to the progress of a group that has moved steadily forward since the start of last season.

If it's security the team is looking for in the event of an injury at wide receiver, then Moss is a great contingency plan. The trouble is that no one knows how long he'll be satisfied as a mere role player.

The 49ers struggled mightily with the vertical passing game in 2011, and in 2012, they haven't improved in that department, ranking 30th in passing yards per game with an average of 179.2. Moss was thought to add to that dynamic and give the team a legitimate downfield threat. But at this point, he's only been a decoy. What are the 49ers waiting for?

Apparently, nothing -- absolutely nothing.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Francisco 49ers as a Southern California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger. You can read him on SB Nation and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.

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