Admit it: With all the Logan Mankins and Tom Brady stuff you almost forgot that Randy Moss was entering the last year of his contract. An absolute under-the-radar summer for Randy off the field.
But on Monday, Moss -- silent all throughout training camp and the preseason, six days away from the season opener and with the Ghost of Mankins hovering over Gillette Stadium-- decided that now was the best time to drop the J.D. Salinger act and start talking.
The topic? His contract status. Card played? That would be rarely used lack of respect.
"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss told CBSSports.com. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling -- feeling not wanted. It is not like my production has gone down. I am speaking from an individual standpoint. I don't know about Tom [Brady's] or whoever else's contract.
"I am a little older and understand the nature of the business -- the older you get the more your skills supposedly diminish, but I think I am getting wiser in how to use my physical skills. That's the frustrating part when you put so much heart and desire into things and feel like you are not wanted."
My quick take after reading those quotes?
Look, if Moss puts up the kind of numbers everyone expects him to this year I suspect this will be a non-issue. He'll get paid by someone (the Pats, my guess), and it'll be right at the top for his position. But if the question is should he have to wait until this season is over to get his money from the Patriots for me the answer is a pretty clear "no."
In his three years in New England the two words I'd use to describe Randy Moss are "dependable" and "dominant." He has missed exactly zero games and has -- for me -- completely erased the idea that this is a guy that has some "dog in him."
I know I'm in the minority in this one. People point to the Carolina game last year -- led by Mike Freeman over at CBSSports.com, who repeatedly referred to Randy Moss as a "dog" in a piece that ran on the site after the game -- but I watched the tape and still don't see it. Was he killing himself to get to the plays in question? Nope, that's fair. But he was a thousand miles away from quitting. And P.S., he did catch seven passes for 89 yards in the second half to carry the Patriots to a then-crucial victory. I get worked up when people in the media call out Moss for this stuff, sometimes I wonder if Welker or Edelman did the same thing if they would treated the same way. Pretty sure I know the answer.
The media loves to play character cop with Moss and use him as an example of the "new" Patriots, a team that has individuals, not team-first guys. Well, the idea that the Patriots wouldn't have won Super Bowls from 2001-04 if they had Randy Moss instead of a David Givens is borderline lunacy. What has Moss done over the last three years to show you he wouldn't have bought in to whatever Belichick was selling?
For me, if Moss was ever going to "quit" it would have happened in 2008. No Brady for the 63.5 of the 64 quarters of the season, and a QB in Matt Cassel who couldn't get him the ball plus no real shot at a Super Bowl. But Moss played all 16 games and played hard. I don't see how someone NOT looking to pop a couple of cheap page views or phone calls or an easy headline can suggest that Moss has been anything but a model Patriot on the field since he showed up in 2007.
And his level of production? Well, I guess a better question would be this: How much do you value touchdowns? I'd say for me it ranks, oh, first, second and 126th when figuring evaluating the worth of an offensive player.
How good has Randy Moss been at finding the end zone in his three years with the Patriots?
How about 47 TDs in 48 games. Simply unreal.
You think Andre Johnson is a pretty good wide receiver? Sure you do, or you would've picked someone else eighth overall in your fantasy draft last weekend. And he is great, three 100-catch seasons, led the league in yards each of the last two years. An All-Pro and a deserving one.
Andre Johnson has played in the NFL for seven seasons. One hundred and two games. Know how many TD catches he has? Forty-two, or five less than Moss in his 48 games with the Patriots.
Moss' 47 TD grabs are 12 more than any other player in the league over the last three years (Larry Fitzgerald has 35, and he's the only other player in the league with more than 30 over that span). It's more than Jerry Rice ever put up in three straight seasons. It's four more than the Buffalo Bills have thrown over the last three seasons. Actually the Jets are the only AFC East team (not counting the Pats, of course) to throw more TDs than Moss has caught since 2007 -- and they are ahead by two. The Dolphins and Moss are tied at 47.
I get that Tom Brady has his own contract to hammer out (and you know that'll be done before the Moss deal, which is fair) but I'm thinking he might be willing to shave a couple of bucks off his deal if it guarantees a Moss return.
In his two seasons with Moss -- his first true "elite" WR -- Brady has thrown 78 touchdown passes against 21 INTs (plenty of credit also to Welker, of course). The Patriots have a 26-6 regular-season record in those games (27-6 if you want to count the Bernard Pollard Experience) and would have a Super Bowl if David Tyree didn't give the greatest audition for a Disney movie ever recorded.
You've got about 90 catches for 1,200 yards and 16 TDs a season. Plus what having Moss -- and the constant double-teams he faces -- on the field is able to do for other players, with the franchise QB at the top of the list. And this isn't a guy who walked into Foxboro without a significant body of work. Moss was already a Hall of Famer, now he's an all-timer (I'll give you Rice as the only "no argument" over Moss on a historical level. Everyone else is in play). And by every account he looks primed for another monster year. To expect an extension -- or at least the start of extension talks-- at this point seems at least reasonable to me.
So what we've got is a legitimate contract beef. Should Moss have kept his mouth shut? Sure, I mean nothing good is going to be born from his comments on Monday. It's not as if Belichick is suddenly going to put the 50,000 other things on his plate to the side and realize that he has to take care of Moss immediately. Belichick knows the deal. And again, I think Moss will stay in New England. It's perfect situation for him and for the Patriots. Too much sense not to happen.
And let's give Moss a pass here, OK? Just this once. He wanted to blow off some steam. It'll have zero impact in that locker room or on the field. If he decides to make this an issue all season or his play (or effort) takes a deep dive then all the professional Moss haters will finally have a bat and ball to play with. I'd ask them to hold off until something goes wrong but you know how that goes.
Here's one thing we can all agree on -- Randy Moss should have kept quiet on Monday.
But that doesn't mean what he said was wrong.