Moss Talks the Talk
But Will His Actions Tell Another Tale?
Six weeks into Randy Moss's tenure with the New England Patriots, he's proven he can talk the talk. But can he walk the walk?
The answer will be a month-to-month, week-to-week, day-to-day, even play-to-play demonstration of "innocent until proven guilty." Every action, every word on and off the field will be scrutinized through that Moss has called his "very big" microscope.
Moss made a great impression right away in his first contact with Patriots reporters in a conference call the day after the trade.
In deference to Foxboro immortal Troy Brown, Moss called himself "the second best receiver to come out of Marshall" University. I don't know that Moss has ever referred to himself as the second best of anything.
Eyes on the prize? - New England Patriots wide receiver
Randy Moss watches a pass into his hands at Patriots minicamp
earlier this week. Likewise, many have their eyes on Moss.
In the same conversation Moss tried to dispel the notion that he was coming to New England just because Oakland was trying to dump him. "I don't think ya'll understand how excited I am to be part of this organization," he said, heaping praise on the Patriots organization and their reputation which far outshines his own, adding that he had no problem taking a huge paycut to have a chance with a proven winner.
He played nice and deflected questions about his past, saying that criticism of his work-ethic was levied by people who don't really know him or have ever been in his position on the field. He said his involvement in the NFL's drug program was between him and the league. He wasn't exactly silver-tongue, but he wasn't confrontational and he didn't reassign blame elsewhere.
Then he promised that the best is yet to come, that he would be the player who showed so much promise under the tutelage of Cris Carter in Minnesota and, while not exactly a model citizen, he had his head on straight. "I think what I've done in the past, as far as losing and sometimes getting out-of-control, I think that's just my competitive nature," he said. "I want to win and help my team get into a position to win."
But the conference call ended abruptly.
"Let me put it this way: The Moss of old is back."
And the reporters were left with a dead phone line. Perhaps less endearing than enigmatic -- as advertised.
His first in-person interview ended similarly strangely. Asked whether the Patriots took a "risk" trading for him, Moss allegedly scowled.
"Man, see? They were all good questions until he slipped that one at that end. I'll see y'all."
That's how the Herald's Albert Breer reported it. His colleague John Tomase heard it this way:
Making Nice with the Media - Moss is hemmed in by the media
during minicamp. He's made an effort to be civil, but he's shown a
propensity thus far to be temperamental (that's being nice, too).
At least Ron Borges of The Boston Globe is gone. There's no doubt in my mind that plagiarizing instigator would do everything in his power to sabotage Moss and the Patriots. I haven't heard whether C. Montgomery Borges (he loves nicknames) will be on any of the radio or TV pre- or post-game shows yet.
Getting back to Moss.
According the Globe and Herald, his Wednesday minicamp interview contained a couple gems (whether or not you include is exit).
"Getting back to making plays and showing my versatility, that's what I meant about the old Randy Moss," he said. "That's going and getting it deep and making plays and one-handed catches, all of the above."
"I don't plan on changing," he said, regarding past perceptions. "I just want to go out there and play football. Really, anything that you've heard about me, good or bad, some are lies, some are true. I think that the guys are getting to know me and understand that I love to win and carry myself as a professional athlete."
Reiss has a complete transcript in his blog on the Globe's site ("Moss Q&A" dated June 6).
What his teammates say
Just a few days ago, linebackerRosevelt Colvin commented on Moss's participation in the recent minicamp.
"He had a lot to say, we had a lot to say back to him," Colvin said. "[H]opefully we can provide a good example of how we do things here in New England. And hopefully [he] can jump [in] and do it the same way and we can build a foundation."
Quarterback Tom Brady also suggested he'd let Moss build a new reputation in New England. "I don't know what people say about him," Brady said. "I try not to prejudge people."
"I've been excited to have him around," Brady said. "He's worked extremely hard, he's in the weight room every day, he's been here working out, he's taken a trip with us to New Orleans,
Seeing eye-to-eye? - Moss and quarterback Tom Brady talk during
Patriots minicamp. Many people expect Brady to "keep Moss in line."
Many others (like Gary Sheffield, maybe) say Moss is uncontrollable.
Higher powers appear to be hedging their bets. Moss's locker is currently between Brady's and Vinny Testaverde's, though Testaverde, who did participate in this week's minicamp, currently isn't signed.
But one of those veterans those power will rely on to show Moss "The Patriots Way," is thus far happy with Moss's effort.
"I talked to Randy this morning," Rodney Harrison said in a Boston Herald story. "Guess what? He was in the weight room, paying the price, working hard. He was one of the first guys in there."
Harrison said he's confident Moss will follow in the footsteps of other alleged troublemakers the Patriots have brought in during the Bill Belichick era.
"He's happy now," Harrison said. "So I think you're not going to have any problems with him. Just like people anticipated myself and Corey (Dillon) being troubleheads. He'll be fine."
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
We all know that talk is cheap. And to abuse another cliche, we have to talk all Moss says with a grain of salt. He's said the right things before, but it was usually mixed in with a lot of the wrong things, and, more importantly, the wrong actions.
But Patriots owner Robert Kraft made it crystal clear during the draft that Moss will do it "The Patriots Way" or he won't do it in Foxboro.
"If people don't adjust to our standards, they won't be here," he said.
Moss's arrogance has peeked through at the conclusion of both the conference call and the first in-person interview, but arrogance with the media does not a bad teammate make. But it won't endear him to the people who often endeavor to spoon-feed their perceptions to the general public.
He made a pretty good effort to inform the media that it's not personal. In the recent minicamp interview, he told the gathered throng, "Hopefully, you all don't take it in a negative way. I don't really like to do interviews because that's not my job. My job is to catch touchdowns and help the team win." As a fan, it sounds good to me. But fans rarely have the audience to influence the court of public opinion. If anyone (particularly anyone in the mainstream media) even perceives Moss slipping up on the field or off, there will be a long line of I-told-you-soers springing Borges-like all over the infraction.
I remain skeptical, but optimistic. I never thought I'd see someone like Moss (let's face it, Brian Cox, Harrison and Dillon are not the same) in a New England Patriots uniform. I dismissed as ludicrous first rumors of a potential trade. But there he is.
I don't think much of him as an upstanding citizen, but he's a great athlete, and all the whining in the world won't vacate his roster spot. You can't erase the past, but if he's a good little soldier, he has (another) opportunity to right a few wrongs. If he isn't, I won't think twice when he's gone.
By the way, at 6-foot-4, Moss is one of the tallest receivers in Patriots history, tied with Hart Lee Dykes and Donald Hayes. Make of that what you will.