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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.''

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

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The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring

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USA TODAY Sports

The next great hashtag, give props to Stephenson and Carlson can't stop scoring

Game 1 of the World Series was completely overshadowed by the big matchup in Calgary between the Capitals and Flames...OK, so that’s not entirely true, but while the Nationals were battling in Game 1, the Caps extended their win streak to four games including two wins to start their five-game road trip.

Here is everything you need to know from Tuesday's 5-3 win.

Observations from the win

Another big-game for Carlson

The NHL points leader scored another two goals to give him 20 points in his first 11 games. He now has a career-high eight-game point streak.

Yawn. Seen it. It's all routine at this point.

All kidding aside, if you’re not on the Carlson hype train, get on board. This is quickly turning from a great start to a special one.

Reirden is showing a lot of trust in his fourth line

Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson and Nic Dowd only played about 6:45 together as a line on Tuesday, but the vast majority of that time came in the third period when the Caps when it really mattered and with the Caps protecting a lead.

Six minor penalties in the first two periods limited their ice-time to less than seven minutes. You may look at that as a sign of distrust, but if you dig deeper and see that the fourth line took six shifts in the third period alone, you start to realize it’s not how much they were used but when that really matters.

Big props to Stephenson

At no point in the offseason did I think Stephenson would be a regular in the Caps’ lineup this year. That’s not just me, the Caps essentially broadcast that they were not satisfied with his play when they signed him to a contract just under the maximum cap hit that can be buried in the AHL. At that point, I thought he should have started packing his bags for Hershey. Instead, he worked his butt off, had a great training camp and has stuck on the roster ever since.

Stephenson’s goal was not just pure luck. No, I don’t mean he meant to bank the puck off Rasmus Andersson. What I mean is he followed the puck on a dump-in, sped in to steal it from Cam Talbot behind the net and then banked it in. He didn’t give up on the play and created a goal out of nothing.

There are times I think Reirden shows Stephenson a little bit too much faith as I think Dowd should not be scratched as much as he is, but it is hard to argue with Stephenson continuing to play a fourth-line role considering how much he continues to work for it.

Give credit to Vrana

Tom Wilson scored the game-winner on a goal that was assisted by Lars Eller and Michal Kempny. But do not discount the role Jakub Vrana played on that goal.

Eller picks up the puck when Travis Hamonic failed to control it and Vrana immediately went hard to the net. Noah Hanifin went with him which left Wilson wide open for the goal.

Vrana may not get a point for it, but he was instrumental in setting up that play.

Turning point

Calgary battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 2 late in the second. That tie lasted...10 whole seconds.


Play of the night

Brendan Leipsic dumped in the puck and Talbot went behind the net to corral it. You see this multiple times per game, every game. Nothing ever comes from it. This time, however, Stephenson never gave up on the play and caught Talbot by surprise.

Stephenson stole it from Talbot and fired a centering pass off Andersson into the empty net.


Stat of the night

First, the obligatory Carlson stat:

Now another bonus stat just to make sure this does not get monopolized by Carlson.

Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist on Ovechkin’s goal in the second period. That assist was the 649th of his career which moves him one past Daniel Sedin for the fifth-most assists all-time by a Swedish-born player.

Quote of the night

Ovechkin on Carlson’s incredible start to the season:

“#Johnny4Norris. That’s a hashtag right now. Let’s keep it going.”

Fan predictions

I don’t know whether to be more impressed by how many predictions you got right or the window.

Calling a Stephenson goal is pretty damn bold.

Nailed the score.

Caps in 5.

Anything to avoid going to Edmonton.

I’m kidding! I hear Edmonton is lovely this time of year….

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Blue jerseys continue to be lucky for Washington Nationals

Blue jerseys continue to be lucky for Washington Nationals

A historic win in the World Series opener means only one thing for the Washington Nationals: They'll stick with the blue jerseys.

The team is now - as MLB Network pointed out - 8-0 when wearing their blue jerseys in the postseason.

And while not changing the jersey color might seem a little extreme - after all didn't this win have a little more to do with Juan Soto for example - as our Caroline Brandt discovered before the World Series, the Nationals are far from the only ones holding tight to any sort of luck they can find in their first World Series trip.

Here are some more interesting numbers from the win: 


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