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For Moss, best commentary will come in his play

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  September 13, 2010 10:40 AM

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I know what y’all are thinking, and I’m not here to start trouble. Y’all are going to read what you want to read, believe what you want to believe, post the comments you want to post. But I just want to get it off my chest that I really don’t care what Randy Moss says. I just want him to play football.

Boston being what it is and professional sports being what they are, we all know how this looked yesterday at Gillette Stadium, and we all know how it’s going to play out. At least with regard to Moss. The Patriots began their 2010 season with a resounding 38-24 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday in a game that was not nearly that close. The Patriots scored 31 points in the first 30 minutes, 12 seconds – 17 on offense, seven on defense, seven on special teams – and built a 31-3 lead that reverberated throughout the league before Week 1 was roughly two quarters old.

Go ahead and discount us. You just wait.

Maybe the Patriots are better than some of us think they are. Maybe they aren’t. One game obviously is far too small a sample. But the simple truth is that the play of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Gary Guyton et al should have been a primary topic of discussion today, but we instead are left to examine the play, commentary, and behavior of Randall Gene Moss.

Here’s the funny thing: Moss played a good game, an especially noteworthy development given his comments in a 56-second interview last week with CBSSports.com, during which Moss said he felt "not wanted’’ in New England. In those 56 seconds, alarm bells sounded. Moss’s history suggests he is the classic short-term relationship, someone to date, play with and ultimately break from. And yet, the Moss who played yesterday generally gave the Patriots everything he is supposed to, stretching the field and making five catches for 59 yards, even if he did not score a touchdown. Tom Brady threw to Moss eight times. Moss had a long gain of 32 yards. Brady completed passes to seven receivers and the Pats had a refreshingly balanced attack, executing particularly well on those drives when they absolutely had to.

Then Moss came out after the game and unloaded months’ worth of frustration in a postgame press conference that forever will go down as self-serving, bizarre and ill-timed, particularly in a lockdown Foxborough culture where T-E-A-M is emphasized and players (Logan Mankins) are asked to issue public apologies for things they say about the organization. Moss instantly became a sitting duck and since has been mocked in print, on national television and local airwaves.

Talk about an easy target.

Which is why some of us aren’t taking the bait.

Fine, so Moss is needy. Maybe he is emotionally damaged. Maybe Moss is truly bothered by the fact that, in his words, "I don’t really feel that I’m very liked.’’ But the real issue concerns whether Moss can sufficiently focus this season to be a valuable part of a New England attack that seemed in relative harmony yesterday, so much so that Brady enthusiastically embraced de facto offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien on the sideline following a touchdown toss to Rob Gronkowski.

The point: as long as Randy plays reasonably well, he can talk all he wants.

And as long as the Pats don’t become so bogged down by this that they ask him to publicly apologize.

In fact, if Moss truly keeps his word, here’s what the Pats should do with regard to yesterday’s Hamlet act: relatively nothing. Pats coach Bill Belichick should call Moss into his office, as Moss foreshadowed, and make sure that Moss has said everything he needed to say. Belichick should make sure Moss got everything off his chest. Belichick should ask for no apologies. Belichick should make sure that Moss is truly focused on playing football, that Moss is really "not here to start any trouble,’’ that Moss merely needed to vent. Then Belichick should tell Moss something the player wants and clearly needs to hear, that Moss did a good job on Sunday, that the Patriots expect him to be a big part of any success they have in 2010.

In Boston, especially, we hold our athletes to some ridiculous standards. On the one hand, we want them to be quotable, to possess personality. On the other, we want them to be robots. We want Moss to make plays and derive no personal satisfaction from it, and we want him to fully subjugate his ego off the field but be larger than life on it. If he slips up in either area, he gets labeled as either uninspired or selfish.

For all the rambling Moss did yesterday – and he did plenty – he was right about one thing: in New England, especially, his history has ``nothing to do with anything too, too bad.’’ During his three years in New England, Moss has not missed a game. He has 47 touchdowns in 49 contests; no other receiver in the league has more than 36 TDs. Moss certainly has had his moments – last year, the meetings with Carolina and the New York Jets stick out – but the Pats have had bigger problems that their enigmatic big-play receiver.

Is Moss a bad guy? It doesn’t seem so. Is he a leader? Heavens, no. During his time in New England, Moss has been a good player, well-liked by teammates. What we are seeing now is that Moss forever will possess a certain amount of immaturity, that he has the emotions of a child, that he will sulk and feel sorry for himself at the most improper times.

With regard to his future in New England, so long as yesterday was the last of it, his performance off the field yesterday did no damage.

And his performance on the field did not seem affected.

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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