FOXBOROUGH -- Randy Moss has had a lot of adjectives attached to his name over the years: selfish, petulant, mercurial, brilliant.
But at the dawn of his third season with the Patriots, he’s picked up another description: mentor. In fact, the 32-year-old Moss has taken a proactive role as an advisor to new and veteran players who might be struggling to learn the New England system, as well as those teammates who want to know the trade secrets of the six-time Pro Bowler.
Last season, veteran Kevin Faulk spoke admiringly of the way Moss went through a tutorial on when to raise your hands before a catch: You don’t want to put your hands up too early, lest you give away the location of the ball in the air to the defensive back who’s keeping an eye on you.
And there were several times in training camp this past month where Moss could be seen working with other wide receivers. One particularly illuminating series came one afternoon when he, quarterback Tom Brady and fellow receivers Wes Welker and Joey Galloway were in one positional grouping, away from the 11-on-11 drills. As Galloway ran his routes, Moss served as a defensive back, guiding the newcomer as to where he needed to be and when.
“Randy, when he’s out here, is one of the hardest working guys we have and he’s so fun to have on the team,” Brady said. “He’s a great teammate and we have a great relationship.”
Moss hasn’t talked about his new role -- he hasn’t spoken to the media since the start of camp -- but it wasn’t a surprise to many who work with him on a daily basis.
“Randy’s very good with younger players,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “He and Tom are always talking and the other receivers, Greg [Lewis] and Joey [Galloway] and Wes [Welker]. They talk a lot about different techniques and how a certain defender plays and how to play against him -- those types of things.”
Moss’ breadth of knowledge isn’t limited to working with the receivers. According to Belichick, he’s also been able to offer some guidance to New England’s defensive backs as well. It’s a character trait that has impressed teammates on both sides of the football.
“I think that was reflected last year when Randy was elected captain -- not because of his playing ability, but because of his leadership and the way he interacts with his teammates and the way he supports them,” Belichick said. “Not just the receivers, but also the defenders.”
The relationship between the defensive backs and wide receivers can be complicated. Going up against each other every day in practice can foster a competitive environment, one that could occasionally spark some resentment between the two camps.
But Belichick said Moss’ contributions have added to the “healthy relationship” between New England’s defensive backs and wide receivers.
“They have a good working relationship with each other: ‘This is what I’m trying to do to you,’ and, ‘This is how I’m trying to defeat it,’” Belichick said. “When a receiver tells our defensive back, ‘Hey, this is what you’re doing that’s giving me trouble or what you’re doing is making it easy for me,’ and the player can improve on the other side of the ball, then ultimately it improves him. So, it’s a healthy relationship, and it’s one we try to encourage.
“And I think we get a lot out of it. The players are good about it. They’re good about helping the younger players, and they’re also good about working with each other on different strengths and weaknesses and techniques that can be beneficial to our team.”