(This post first appeared in the Extra Points blog and has been edited for this blog.)
When Randy Moss joined the Patriots he said he'd always consider himself the second-best receiver to come out of Marshall, next to the guy pictured above. If you don't know who that is you've stumbled across the wrong blog or you're a really advanced reader for such a young age.
Troy Brown, (pictured above) the Patriots' all-time leading receiver and a teammate of Moss's during the 2007 season, said he believes Moss has too much respect for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to dog it, as has been alleged following the comments of Carolina defensive backs that Moss shut it down during the Patriots' 20-10 win over the Panthers on Sunday.
"It was just a crazy week for everybody and being sent home, the distraction, maybe it did affect his game, but there are not too many things in the past where...I can't say he was dogging it," said Brown, who now works as an analyst for Comcast Sportsnet New England.
"He dropped some catches we're used to seeing Randy Moss make. The controversy highlighted it. When he did it early in the year no one noticed, but there is a little more attention put on those catches when there is some kind of controversy throughout the week, with his being sent home.
"I can guarantee you this, if he's not in that lineup, you will definitely see a lot of changes in the way teams play the Patriots. He is a huge asset to the football team just being on the field because you're not going to put your guard down and give him the chance to change the game with one play, whether he's dogging it or not."
Brown was asked if he thought Moss gave up on the out route that ended up in a Brady interception by Carolina corner Chris Gamble, who said after the game Moss shut it down, and acknowledged it looked like Moss didn't finish the route.
"That situation it looked like he just kind of pulled up when he saw the ball was thrown outside and he didn't have a chance to get it," said Brown. "We are taught to finish plays. It's kind of hard to see. Who knows? I don't think...he has too much respect for that organization and for that team to dog it on these guys. Nobody knows what really happens in his head and the things that are going on during the week, and you don't know his health situation."
Brown said that route-running is an area Moss has really improved upon since first coming to New England.
"Randy has worked really hard to become a route runner, a lot of his game was based on speed and running past people," said Brown, who worked with Moss on route-running. "I think it's paid off for him. He's never been a Reggie Wayne when it comes to running routes. The routes he's run are based on running by people, that burst of speed off the line and then you run an in-cut and the guy is just bailing out."
Brown said that you could tell by Moss's body language on the bench that he was not happy with his performance or the way things were going, but that we shouldn't make too much of Brady's pep talk to Moss being a sign of distress.
"Everybody needs to be pumped up and reassured that 'we still need you to make some plays.' It's hard sometimes to go out there and catch one ball," said Brown. "It's hard to stay focused and feel like a part of the game when you're not seeing much action. ... It's kind of hard to understand that when you're not involved in that action.
"We all as receivers want to see the ball. We want to make things happen. I believe that's what Tom was saying, 'Stay in there. Shake it off, forget about it and come back and make the next play.' Tom has done it with me, and he's done it with everybody."
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.