Randy Moss has several "returns" to the Metrodome in his career, including the 2006 preseason while with the Oakland Raiders and after being re-acquired by the Minnesota Vikings in 2010. Here's some advice for Vikings fans who want to see Moss on the field Sunday: Pay attention.
Yes, Moss' latest homecoming is notable mostly for the part-time role he has assumed for the San Francisco 49ers. Moss is in essence sharing the 49ers' No. 3 receiver role with Kyle Williams, behind starters Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, and has been on the field for only 37 of the 49ers' 130 offensive snaps (28.5 percent) over the first two games. Quarterback Alex Smith has targeted Moss on only five of his 57 pass attempts, completing all five for 61 yards and a touchdown. (Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.)
Moss, 35, didn't play last season and hasn't been a downfield threat since averaging 15.2 yards on 83 catches for the New England Patriots in 2009. The 49ers aren't really a downfield offense, preferring to utilize their physical line to run the ball while Smith attacks mid-range openings. But if the 49ers thought Moss could routinely stretch the defense downfield, it stands to reason they would use him that way -- as a decoy if nothing else.
Speaking to Bay-area reporters this week, Moss said "I am not" concerned about playing time and noted "it's really not up to me." He added: "I just come out here and practice every day. When called upon I try to make a play."
We've learned over the years that Moss is a special athlete and football player. There is no sense writing him off now, or ever. But if he has reached his physical limit, kudos to the 49ers for recognizing it and finding a reasonable way for him to contribute rather than mis-cast him in a role he played 10 years ago. And for two games, at least, Moss deserves credit for accepting the 49ers' plan.