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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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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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