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Santana Moss Changes Roles In Spite Of Pride, Yet Because Of It

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

(Originally posted 10/1/12, 1 p.m.; Updated 10/4/12, 10:04 p.m.)

ASHBURN – When Santana Moss was first approached with the idea of serving primarily as the Washington Redskins’ slot receiver this season, he thought about the players before him who had too much pride to agree to such a change.

Moss

“I feel like whatever your team gives you to be successful, that’s all you can really accept, and so therefore, I just take it in stride,” Moss said. “I want to win more than anything, so when something was brought upon on me like that, the first thing I said is, ‘If that’s gonna help the team, then I’m all for it.’”

It has been quite the adjustment for Moss, 33, who led the Redskins in receiving yards from 2005-10. He spent practically that entire time as the No. 1 receiver and weathered the storm of six starting quarterbacks.

But with the offseason acquisitions of Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan, and an expanded role for second-year receiver Leonard Hankerson, Moss’s responsibilities have been marginalized. He’s on the field for only half the plays he was a season ago; through four games, he’s caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, which came against Cincinnati on Sept. 23.

“I feel it’s gone as good as it can go, you know?” Moss said. “When I play football, I play football. I don’t look at it as just making catches, [but] as being a football player. My job is to go out there and block. My job is to go out there and clear out sometimes. My job is to go out there and catch the balls when they come my way, and thus far, I’ve been handling it well.”

The Redskins have thrown for 1,003 yards this season, with tight end Fred Davis leading the team with 14 catches for 212 yards. Hankerson has 13 receptions, Morgan has 12 and Garçon, who has missed all but five quarters because of a sprained right foot, has five.

Moss expected that competition, and in training camp, much was made about how he shed nearly 15 pounds to reduce his playing weight to the low-190s. He hoped it would help with his quickness and explosion and allow him to make an impact on the crossing routes and passes underneath he was more likely to see.

“Even though his role has regressed, he’s still getting a chance to get two or three balls a game and make something happen,” Davis said. “He’s still adding to the game, but he’s not doing as much as he did for us in a lesser role. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it happens all the time in this league.”

His experience was valuable Sunday when the Redskins began their final drive against Tampa Bay. Facing a one-point deficit with 1:42 remaining and Washington at its own 20-yard line, Moss caught the first pass from Robert Griffin III over the middle for a 16-yard gain, then made a crucial seven-yard reception with approximately 10 seconds remaining that set up a game-winning 41-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff.

“That started with ‘Tana,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “The way he’s handled it has been great. He’s excited when we win. I’ve never heard him being upset about not getting as many opportunities, and he really is an example for everyone else in that room.”

Head coach Mike Shanahan wasn’t surprised Moss was open to such a change when the two spoke during the offseason. He also wasn’t shocked Moss took it upon himself to get into better shape to prepare for such a role.

“He’s a competitor,” Mike Shanahan said. “He couldn’t care less if he could catch the pass if we win. He’s got that type of mindset. When you have that type of mindset, good things usually happen with a guy like that.”

In terms of his pride, Moss was affected in a different way. Having achieved much during his previous 12 seasons, Moss doesn’t want to be run out of the league and left trying to get back in with a variety of one-year deals and failed tryouts.

“It’s a blessing to be able to still be playing and to go out here and compete at this level the way I can compete,” Moss said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys that came in with me, seen a lot of guys that did it before me, that can’t compete at this level right now and that’s not here at this level playing. When you want to think about pride, you put all that to the side, because you’ve seen how those guys handled their situation.”

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