Moss doesn’t go by the book
Receiver’s reads have been brilliant
FOXBOROUGH - Randy Moss, who rarely speaks to the media during the week, chatted briefly yesterday on his way out of the locker room after practice. He reflected on his season, during which he has played through pain and used his unrivaled football instincts to play a more diverse role in the Patriots passing game.
“As an individual, you can never really look at individual play,’’ Moss said. “I don’t look at individual play. At the same time, it’s hard not to. My outlook, my philosophy, has always been, ‘Just win.’ In the beginning of my career, it was always more about statistics and everything. Once you get older, man, it’s just winning, making the tournament, the playoffs. That’s what it’s about.’’
Moss, with 43 catches for 565 yards, is on pace for 98 catches - the number he caught in 2007, Tom Brady’s last full season - and 1,291 yards. In compiling gaudy numbers, Moss has continued to provide a unique versatility that owes to his intelligence as a wide receiver.
Coach Bill Belichick reiterated yesterday that Moss is “the smartest receiver I’ve ever been around.’’ Moss pairs size and speed with an innate sense of reading defenses and knowing where to be, changing his play on the fly depending on the defense. His rare skill obviously helps, but Moss can also see the game on a different level than most players.
When Moss arrived with the Patriots, he had played in Minnesota and Oakland with offenses unlike the system the Patriots employ. In New England, he needed to line up in different formations, go in motion more often, and sometimes play the slot.
From speaking with teammates and those around Moss, Belichick knew Moss could handle the changes before acquiring him prior to the 2007 season.
“He not only knows what he’s doing,’’ Belichick said, “he knows what everybody else is doing. He knows what the defense is doing. And he usually knows what the quarterback is doing with the ball based on all that information he compiles in a very short amount of time - a preread, and then a half-second or maybe a second into the play.’’
Belichick compared Moss’s instincts with those of Lawrence Taylor, Brady, and Emmitt Smith. When he coached Taylor, the linebacker would come to the sideline and tell Belichick exactly how the offensive line was blocking the defense differently than they had planned for. Belichick would watch the film, and it proved Taylor right every time.
“It’s the instinct,’’ Belichick said. “It’s like a basketball player knowing when to pull up, when to drive to the hoop, and when to look for the jump shot. It’s all that stuff. Some guys just have a capacity and an instinctiveness to do that sometimes without even being coached.’’
Moss’s football sense helped him readjust to playing with Brady. Moss and Brady became one of the most prolific quarterback-receiver tandems in the league in 2007, their first year together. Then their development together paused when Brady was injured, forcing Moss to learn new timing with Matt Cassel.
With Brady healthy, Moss is playing an even more complete role. His ability to do everything a receiver can be asked to do makes him a more dangerous weapon.
“A lot of routes he runs are adjustable routes,’’ Belichick said. “It depends on where the defenders are for what he does - whether he goes inside or outside, whether he goes deep or hooks up, things like that. That’s definitely him and the quarterback seeing the same thing.’’
Moss revealed little on the state of his hurt shoulder, which has limited him in practice and in some games. On the official practice report, Moss is listed as a probable.
“I feel about like everybody else in the league, man,’’ Moss said.
“The knee feels pretty good,’’ Green said. “Rehab is going good. We are taking it one day at a time. [The surgery] was something that had to be done. I have been playing with it for about four weeks, so it got worse and worse. We’ve got a lot of football left and it makes sense.’’
Last night in Providence, Green hosted a third annual wine tasting gala in conjunction with his Jarvis Green Foundation, the proceeds of which benefited disadvantaged single mothers affected by tragedies.
Several of his teammates, including Stephen Neal, Matt Light, and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, attended.
“My mom and dad were together for 31 years,’’ Green said. “Single mothers need more help to recover. I wanted my foundation to help that cause.’’
“I love that 55 guy,’’ linebacker Junior Seau said, referring to Porter by his number. “I do. He’s a great athlete, a great player, and a good friend. I love what he does out there.’’
But do Porter’s words have any impact?
“Not that many players in this locker room can read,’’ Seau said. “So it’s not bothering us. It really isn’t.’’
Simmons was inactive for six of seven games this season, seeing time only as a substitute in the Patriots’ 59-0 win over the Titans in Week 6. Simmons had prepped to play at all three offensive line positions.
“Kendall really worked hard,’’ Belichick said. “Really had a lot of admiration for him. He’s a pro. Came to work early, stayed late, worked hard. Just managing the roster here. It’s definitely not something we were looking to do, but we’ve got to try to manage our team.’’
The Patriots could afford to release Simmons because of their depth. They still have nine linemen on their roster, including versatile backup Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell is on the practice squad.
Adam Kilgore can be reached at email@example.com.