|Patriots obtain talented, controversial receiver|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 13:41|
``The Moss of old is back,'' he declared Sunday.
Is that the Randy Moss who made the Pro Bowl in five of his first six seasons? Or is it the one who was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants in front of a Green Bay crowd - among other transgressions?
New England obtained Moss from the Oakland Raiders for a fourth-round draft choice Sunday, the second day of the NFL draft. The Raiders used that pick on Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie.
The Patriots see signs that Moss will behave properly, a point of emphasis with team owner Robert Kraft since he bought the team before the 1994 season.
Running back Corey Dillon was disgruntled while playing with a losing franchise in Cincinnati but was a good teammate after coach Bill Belichick and vice president for player personnel Scott Pioli traded for him in 2004. Dillon wasn't re-signed after last season.
``Bill and Scott have shown that they can assemble players, especially veteran players, who can acclimate to our culture,'' club owner Robert Kraft told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. ``If people don't adjust to our standards, they won't be here.''
Moss kept repeating how excited he was to join the Patriots because of their chances of winning a fourth Super Bowl this decade. He even renegotiated downward a contract that would have paid him $9.25 million in 2007 and $11.25 million in 2008.
``I've made a lot of money and I still have money in the bank. So by me coming to an organization such as the New England Patriots, why would money be a factor?'' Moss said in a conference call. ``I'm still in awe that I'm a part of this organization.''
Belichick has built the Patriots as a team of players who shun individual glory. Three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady makes sure to credit his teammates - and spreads passes to many receivers.
Is Moss OK with not being THE go-to guy?
``Of course, I am,'' he said after a brief pause. ``I've never been a selfish ballplayer. I've been selfish for winning, but as far as me getting the ball and getting my numbers, I've never been selfish.''
Kraft said the team hasn't changed its emphasis on proper behavior on and off the field.
``The same philosophy we have used since we bought the football team is still intact,'' he said. That philosophy is winning ``with a team and players we can be proud of.''
Moss is the latest addition to a changing corps of receivers.
Since last season, the Patriots added Wes Welker in a trade with Miami, and Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington as free agents. Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney both played their first season with New England last year.
The changes followed the loss of the Patriots top two receivers from 2005 - Deion Branch, who was traded to Seattle the day after the season opener, and David Givens, who signed as a free agent with Tennessee.
When he's motivated, Moss is better than all of them.
As a rookie with Minnesota in 1998, he caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns. In his first six seasons, he had at least 1,200 yards receiving. After seven seasons with the Vikings, he was traded to the Raiders where he had two unproductive seasons.
He had 42 receptions for 553 yards and three touchdowns last season, all career lows, and expressed a desire to be traded. His motivation and interest seemed to wane.
``Maybe (it's) because I'm unhappy and I'm not too much excited about what's going on,'' he said last November, ``so my concentration and focus level tends to go down sometimes when I'm in a bad mood. So all I can say is if you put me in a good situation and make me happy, man, you get good results.''
Moss thinks he's in a great situation with Belichick and players who are satisfied only with a championship.
``I think that he's the kind of coach that can motivate me,'' Moss said. ``He has a proven track record.''
But what about Moss' track record?
With Minnesota, he was criticized by quarterback Daunte Culpepper and others for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss to Washington. He bumped a traffic control officer with his car in 2002, verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001 and squirted an official with a water bottle in 1999.
``I know there are some things that I've done in the past,'' Moss said, ``but I think that's all behind me.''
Belichick spoke with Moss briefly after the first day of the draft and at greater length Sunday when he was in Foxborough for his physical.
``I've talked to a lot of people that were close to him, both teammates and coaches,'' Belichick said. ``They have a lot of respect for him. I have a lot of respect for him.''
Denver coach Mike Shanahan thinks Moss helps make New England the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
``If you put him in the right environment,'' Shanahan said, ``I think he could go back to being one of the top receivers in the NFL.''
Oakland coach Lane Kiffin wanted to trade Moss before next weekend's mandatory minicamp, which the Raiders were unsure he'd attend.
``We felt this was the best scenario for both the Raiders and Randy,'' Kiffin said. ``We wish him nothing but the best.''
Moss knows his behavior will be under ``a microscope, and my microscope is very big,'' he said.
But he has a chance ``to really get on that Super Bowl stage and really show the world who I am and what I'm able to do,'' he said. ``I just told (Belichick) that I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and try not to do anything stupid''
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Francisco and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.