NEW ORLEANS -- You might have heard this week that Randy Moss said he's the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. You might have laughed. Jerry Rice did. Rice isn't just regarded as the best receiver. Many will tell you he's the greatest NFL player of all time.
But Moss' claim isn't that outrageous, his lack of modesty aside. If he had just said he was the most-talented receiver, no one would have argued. He could have been the best. He should have been the best. Take it one step further. He would have been the best if he weren't such a knucklehead.
Those foolish days are behind him, Moss said, now just two weeks from his 36th birthday. He's with the San Francisco 49ers -- the team for which the fabulous Rice had his best days -- for Super Bowl XLVII. Everyone has focused on the game Sunday night being the final one for Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis, but it also could be the final game for Moss, a legend himself.
Not that Moss is griping that few people have noticed.
"No, because that's not me. I'm not a celebrator. I like to do my work and go home."
Much like Lewis, Moss has done a nice job of re-inventing himself. With every other team during his long NFL career, he was a disruptive force at one time or another. But with the 49ers, he is a team leader, not just with their young wide receivers -- who once dreamed of being him and loved watching him on their video games because of his prodigious talent -- but with all their players. It was Moss who spoke to the team about taking care of business this week rather than getting caught up in the fun of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. He reminded the players they will regret a loss to the Ravens the rest of their life. He knows from experience; he was a star on the 2007 New England Patriots team that was unbeaten when it lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. He caught the go-ahead, 6-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady with 2:42 left before quarterback Eli Manning rallied the 12-underdog Giants to an unexpected win.
"You are talking about Randy Moss," 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree said, comparing Moss to eloquent NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. "His voice alone gets you hyped. I'm just honored to be next to him."
"He's brought wisdom," 49ers star linebacker Patrick Willis said of Moss.
Moss hasn't had the same impact on the field for the 49ers. His numbers this season -- 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns -- and in the playoffs -- five catches for 71 yards and no touchdowns -- were pedestrian. He can't run the way he did and has been more of a decoy for Crabtree.
"I don't like my role," Moss said, flatly.
Don't be fooled. Moss hasn't complained publicly one time this season. By all accounts, he has been a great teammate.
"I've always been a team player. I've never been about self," Moss insisted.
You're not alone if you don't believe that.
You might guess whom Moss blamed for the perception that he's a bad guy.
"The thing about the media is that everything is not said and the truth is not always told."
That might be true, but much of Moss' troubled background is indisputable. Are you ready? Take a deep breath ...
Moss was expelled from high school and briefly did jail time after being involved in a racially motivated fight, which cost him a scholarship to Notre Dame. He went to Florida State but was thrown out of school there after testing positive for marijuana, which cost him 60 days in jail as a parole violator. After playing at Marshall, he was picked No. 21 overall in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, far lower than his skills deserved. The Steelers picked LSU guard Alan Faneca with the 26th pick that year but wouldn't have touched Moss even if they could have gotten him, then-general manager Tom Donahoe once said.
Moss was traded to Oakland before the 2005 season but lasted just two seasons because Raiders management felt he often quit on the team. He was traded to the Patriots before the 2007 season and had a tremendous run before wearing out his welcome and being traded back to Minnesota in the 2010 season. He quickly was cut after publicly criticizing Vikings coach Brad Childress and teammates and finished the 2010 season with the Tennessee Titans. He sat out last season before making his comeback with the 49ers.
Along the way, Moss faced marijuana issues in the NFL and was involved in an alleged domestic-abuse incident. He also infamously faked mooning Green Bay Packers fans in a playoff game with the Vikings after the 2004 season.
Shame on the media for portraying Moss as a bad guy.
"I would like to write a book," Moss said Wednesday. "I think, for you to really understand me and what I come from and how I do things, you need to read it. Get to know me a little better."
Can't wait to read that one, for no other reason than to see Moss' spin.
Moss admitted he regrets not always being as focused and committed as he is now. Who knows how much better his career would have been, how much more spectacular his numbers would have been, how many more games and even Super Bowls his teams would have won? No other receiver has had his combination of size, speed, leaping ability and hands.
"Randy is the best deep-ball receiver in the history of football," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said this week.
Before Kaepernicked and Tebowed became a part of the football lexicon, there was Mossed. That describes a receiver who runs past a cornerback and leaps above him to pull in a long touchdown pass. No one did it better than Moss.
"Sort of like a slam dunk," he said of the impact his catches had on NFL fans.
Moss long will be remembered as a phenomenal athlete. But the best receiver of all time? There's just no way.
Moss has only himself to blame.
RICE • 22,895 YARDS
MOSS • 15,292 YARDS
RICE • 1,549 RECEPTIONS
MOSS • 982 RECEPTIONS
RICE • 197 TDs
MOSS • 156 TDs
Of note: Jerry Rice played 303 games, Randy Moss has played 218