Restraint Rewarding To Santana Moss
Rather than complain about a reduced role in the offense last season, the receiver decided to embrace the opportunity and dedicate himself to being the best player he can be.
BY ZAC BOYER
RICHMOND – When he was an underclassman at Carol City High School in the outskirts of Miami, Santana Moss learned a valuable lesson that would carry him through high school, college and professional football.
Sometimes, he found, less is more.
“I feel like all my life, I’ve always been given less than other guys, you know what I mean?” Moss said after one of the Washington Redskins’ practices earlier this week. “But even though I put the effort in and put the work in there, I made more out of it.”
Life can be difficult for a slot receiver, especially one who’s 34 years old and entering his 13th season in the NFL. Though the slant toward a passing-oriented league has made the position more glamorous in recent years, there’s still nothing alluring about gaining five yards at a time while running into heavy traffic.
Moss, though, doesn’t mind it. When the idea was first broached last spring of moving him inside full time, he considered the success he had in that role during the four years he spent with the New York Jets at the start of his career.
It was an easy sell. And, it’s even easier to consider now: Moss had 41 receptions for 573 yards, and his eight touchdowns not only led the team, they were the most he’s had since 2005, his first season with the Redskins.
“Honestly, I never [beefed] and moaned about it because I thought I could play football, so for me to be outside all those years, I knew I could do it,” Moss said. “I hated it in years when I couldn’t go out there and perform when I knew the opportunity was there and we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Moss’ dedication dates to those high school days, when he played in a run-oriented offense under head coach Walt Frazier. Unhappy with the few opportunities he had to catch the ball, he asked his father, Lloyd, if he could quit the team. Lloyd, a corrections officer, predictably said no.
That spurred Moss to view his future optimistically. If he was going to do something, he was going to make the best of it. He’d catch one pass and run 80 yards for a touchdown. He’d play football at the University of Miami on a track scholarship.
It was when the Redskins hired Mike Shanahan as their head coach before the 2010 season that Moss started thinking about ways to diversify the offense. Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were willing to take Moss away from his duties on the outside and move him around the field, providing a fresher look against defenses that had gotten used to watching him stroll near the sidelines.
After Moss and the coaches agreed that moving inside would be best for him, Moss dedicated himself to his fitness. He lost 15 pounds and returned to camp last season joking that it was the lightest, and quickest, he had been in several years.
“He made a commitment that he was going to do everything he could to eat right and to come back in the best football shape that he’s been in,” Mike Shanahan said. “He’s continued to do that this year. He’s in excellent shape.”
Moss, entering the final season of a three-year contract, saw his lesson manifest itself again this spring. Given the Redskins’ restrictive salary cap situation, and the fact that he was on the field for just 40 percent of the team’s plays, he was asked to restructure his contract, with nearly $2 million of his $4.5 million base salary converted into incentives.
He may have no trouble earning those. Quarterback Robert Griffin III said that Moss is more than a veteran presence on the field; he’s “an electric playmaker” whose abilities he hopes to exploit more often this season.
That is, as long as more doesn’t amount to less.
“Last year, I was dealt less playing time, but I still felt my role was the same,” Moss said. “I just wanted to be all I could be for the team, and just giving me the opportunity, I took it and made the best of it.”