Will the real Randy Moss please stand up?
When the 49ers signed the NFL’s most enigmatic player in February, it seemed like one of two things would happen: he’d blow up the stat sheet, adding an explosive new dimension to Greg Roman’s offense, or give up, frustrated with a limited role as his aging body declined.
But instead, Moss threw the media yet another curveball.
As the 49ers prepare to meet the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, Moss is no longer a threat who overwhelms defensive backs with his blistering speed and extraordinary leaping ability. But he isn’t a team cancer who plays when he wants to play, either.
Moss is a difficult bird to label. He doesn’t give himself over to the media and when he does speak up, his words are often inspired by anger and frustration. He wore out his welcome in Minnesota, Oakland, New England and Tennessee, but at each stop he endeared himself to a number of players who testify on his behalf at any opportunity.
With the 49ers, an older, wiser Moss seems to be performing his new mentor role with the same zeal he used to apply to scoring touchdowns. Coach Jim Harbaugh says Moss is welcome back next season and Michael Crabtree claims his tutelage contributed to his breakout season this year. Now, Moss is the teacher, as Cris Carter was for him as a rookie in 1998.
“Randy’s my guy,” rookie running back LaMichael James said. “He gives me a lot of life lessons.”
Tight end Delanie Walker said he thinks of Moss as an older brother.
“He’s always trying to help you out,” he said. “Always in the meeting room trying to give pointers to us, showing us the routes you can run on a certain defense. Other people, they don’t really get to see the side of him that we get to see. He’s a jokester, he likes to play around and stuff. I think he’s a valuable player in this locker room.”
Walker said Moss motivates the team at practice, teaches the details and works closely with rookie A.J. Jenkins.
“He’s just been through it,” Walker said.
The 28-year-old tight end said Moss is sensitive about how he’s depicted, which leads to interactions with the media that present a distorted picture of the guy he’s come to know in the locker room.
“You can’t trust the media,” he said. “You all say one good thing and then go and say another. That’s just how this game is and I guess he takes that to the heart.”
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to paint any person with a single brush stroke — selfish, greedy, egomaniac. But most of us are contradictory beings. We have the capacity to be kind, generous and thoughtful in our best moments and short, inconsiderate and rude when at our worst.
Moss truly appears to be a great teammate to the young guys in the 49ers’ locker room. In the past, he’s lashed out at the outside world, but those incidents aren’t necessarily representative of who he is on the whole.
Like anyone, the real Randy Moss is a complex individual.