Randy Moss has backed up the positive first impression he made with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.
Even defensive players and coaches have been impressed.
"Well, just how committed and down to earth of a football player he is," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said during the 49ers' recently concluded mandatory minicamp. "He has really been as good as you can possibly ask for in terms of being totally engrossed in football. He's a throwback."
We've discussed Moss' history in detail, noting that "with Moss, it's often about impressive debuts and new beginnings. Sometimes, he sticks around and produces, as the case was with New England. Other times, the initial impressions do not foreshadow future results."
This seemed like a good time for a fuller progress report. Veteran players are finished until training camp.
"It's been great watching the players interact, the quarterbacks interact, the receivers interact with him," Fangio said. "And we'll all be better because of it. And just truly impressed with everything Randy Moss represents."
49ers safety Donte Whitner played against Moss for four seasons in the AFC East. Whitner sees Moss as highly motivated and still possessing sufficient physical abilities:
"Moss still has the vertical speed. Ever since he’s been in the National Football League, it never looks like he’s running fast. He’s such a long strider. But once he gets up on you, it’s separation time. He always had the hands, he always had the want-to when he wants to go out there and play football.
"He hasn’t really said anything. He just goes out and plays football. You can see him in the weight room first thing in the morning, when no one else is here. I think he’s truly, truly motivated to go out and quiet a lot of critics.
"I think him being with [Michael] Crabtree and having an explosive group, with [Mario] Manningham and Vernon Davis, there are not going to be many people who can double cover and put a safety over the top because you have other weapons. Plus, you have a running game.
"So, I believe he’s going to see as much one-on-one coverage as he’s ever seen in his career. And I believe he’s going to be able to take advantage of it. He’s been doing it in practice. He’s a really good football player still and he’s always been a freak of nature. That’s why they call him, 'The Freak.' "
The 49ers have generally favored a second tight end over a third wide receiver in their personnel packages on early downs (and sometimes even on third down). They still will, in some cases, because second tight end Delanie Walker adds another dimension. But the 49ers also have the ability to line up with Moss, Crabtree and Manningham at wide receiver. That gives them more playmaking ability, at least on paper, than they've had previously. Defenses have to account for Davis and Frank Gore as well.
"I don’t care how old he is, he's a playmaker," Davis said. "He’s had a lot of sucesss. One thing I know about Moss is he’s going to compete. It’s in his nature. ... He might not be as fast as he was back in the day, but he still has great ball skills. His ball skills are pretty significant to what we’re trying to do."
To be continued during training camp and as long as Moss remains on the roster.