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Randy Moss: From star to afterthought with 49ers

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Randy Moss: From star to afterthought with 49ers

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Randy Moss strolled to the podium on Super Bowl media day - his 49ers hat tilted slightly to the left, his sleeves rolled up high to reveal a cross tattooed on one arm, a large ``R'' tattooed on the other.

He carried himself very much like the star he once was.

``I don't know how many questions I'm gonna give you,'' he barked to reporters, before breaking into a smile. ``So go ahead.''

Then, for the next hour or so, he was the center of attention - a role he seemed perfectly suited for, even though he kept saying over and over that he just wants to be treated like anyone else.

Moss proclaimed himself ``the greatest receiver ever to play this game.'' He urged all the coaches out there to listen to their players every now and then.

``I'm me,'' Moss declared. ``I just do it my way. That's just how I feel. I don't try to be better than the next man, or break any laws or any rules. Nothing like that. But what do I believe in? I believe in myself. That's just the way I've always done it.

``I know,'' he quickly added, ``there's some people out there who like me, and I know there's a lot of people out there who don't. For what reason, I don't know and don't really care.''

Moss was once the NFL's most dominant receiver, but those days are long past. He's 35 now, clearly on the downside of a career that actually seemed over a year ago. After bouncing around to three different teams in 2010, he didn't play at all last season. But, he wasn't ready to walk away from the sport just yet - and San Francisco gave him a chance to come back for another shot at the ring.

There was one big caveat: Moss would no longer be the center of the offense.

The 49ers had plenty of others - from receiver Michael Crabtree to tight end Vernon Davis to running back Frank Gore. Now that Colin Kaepernick has taken over at quarterback, it's easy to forget that No. 84 is even on the field. Sure, Moss is savoring the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl, where they'll face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but he's still struggling to get his arms around the idea of being an afterthought on the field.

``I've always considered myself a playmaker,'' he said. ``Blocking? Yeah, I understand that's part of the game. Me going out to be decoy? Yeah, I know that's part of the game. But for me not to be out here making plays is something I just don't understand.''

Then, he remembered why he's here.

``If that's going to win me a ring,'' Moss said, ``yeah, I accept that.''

He came oh-so-close during the 2007 season, teaming with Tom Brady to lead New England to an unbeaten regular season and two more wins in the playoffs. Then, in the game that really mattered, the high-powered Patriots were shut down in the Super Bowl by the New York Giants, who rallied for a stunning 17-14 upset after David Tyree - not Moss - made a catch that left everyone in awe.

It's a game Moss has never bothered to watch on video. It's a game that sticks with him to this day - and probably will forever, even if the 49ers win on Sunday.

``There's just something about `07, being undefeated going into a Super Bowl and losing it like that,'' he said. ``I'll never forget that moment because it's not fun when you're sweating and you have confetti dropping down and sticking to your face and knowing that you're not on the winning side of the confetti.''

Surely, someone asked, winning this time would ease the pain from five seasons ago.

Not so, Moss replied.

``If I win this one, that means I could have had two,'' he said. ``That's something I'll never forget.''

Moss' last big season came with the Patriots in 2009, when he had 83 receptions for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns. The following year was a mess, largely of his own making.

His days in New England were numbered before the season opener when Moss complained about not getting a contract extension and said he didn't feel wanted. After week four, he was traded back to Minnesota, his original team, but that didn't last, either. Moss griped about then-coach Brad Childress and was waived, finishing out the dismal, miserable campaign in Tennessee.

Not surprisingly, no one jumped at the chance to offer Moss a job in 2011.

It looked as though retirement had arrived, whether he wanted it or not.

Moss used the off year to reconnect with his children, to get in some fishing, to watch some games on Sundays. But he also shed some tears, pained at the idea of ending his career before he was ready to go. He made sure to stay in shape, just in case someone wanted to give him another chance.

``I love this game of football so much,'' Moss said. ``I don't like everything that comes with it, but going out on the field between the white lines and playing football is something I've always done. I've been doing it since I was 6 years old. For me to be able to just walk away from the game, knowing that I wasn't ready, mentally or physically, it really hurt me, man. It really depressed me.''

Then came a call from the 49ers, who had come up just short of the Super Bowl during his season away. They felt Moss was one of those players who might help them get over the hump - not so much for what he could do on the field, but the impact he might have on the youngsters in the locker room.

Moss started only two games, finishing with 28 catches, 434 yards and three TDs. But he had the desired impact on Crabtree and Kaepernick, passing on his many experiences to those who will carry the franchise into the future.

``One thing that impressed me the most about Randy is the way that he works with all the other guys, and not even just the receivers,'' 49ers fullback Bruce Miller said. ``He's so knowledgeable about the game of football that he coaches other positions and has all kinds of tips and reminders for everyone.''

As the Superdome clock ticked down to zero, indicating the 49ers' hour-long media session was over, Moss continued to chat away at the podium.

Finally, Davis came over to pull him away.

It was almost as if Moss wanted to cling to the spotlight as long as possible.

``It's been fun,'' he said. ``But I've got to go.''

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins woeful run game

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USA TODAY Sports

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins woeful run game

News broke that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry. Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or the draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team.

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."

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