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Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Randy Moss' latest 'go' route

By Jemele Hill
ESPN.com

It doesn't sound like Randy Moss quit football. It sounds like football quit him. Or maybe it was a lack of mutual affection.

But will it actually last?

I'm not buying Moss' retirement. Not yet, anyway. He isn't leaving football because he's no longer physically able to perform. It seems to me he's just pouting because he expects NFL teams to treat him like he's still the Randy Moss who scored 23 touchdowns and vaulted Tom Brady into a different class as a quarterback in 2007.

Randy Moss
It didn't work out with the Titans at the end of last season. That isn't the way Randy Moss will want his career to end.

What does it say about Moss that the Jets felt more comfortable signing fresh-out-of-prison Plaxico Burress -- who, when he turns 34 on Aug. 12, will be the same age (34) as Moss -- over one of the greatest wide receivers of all time?

It says that Moss is no longer worth the trouble.

But maybe that will change.

He certainly isn't as explosive as he used to be. But considering the frequency of injuries in the NFL, would it surprise anyone if a team takes a flier on Moss later this season?

Right now, it's understandable why teams want to stay away from him. Quitting, unfortunately, is a familiar pattern with this surefire Hall of Famer. He gave up in Oakland. He talked his way out of New England. The Patriots traded him to the Vikings, where he did nothing. And he was a waste in Tennessee.

But we've seen before that NFL teams can be only as principled as their options allow them to be. Michael Vick deserved another chance and got it, but not because the NFL is a benevolent league. Vick is a freakish athlete, and there's a premium on the quarterback position. It also helps that there isn't another player in the game who can threaten defenses the way Vick can.

Even now, as much as some people might dislike even entertaining the thought, more than a few teams would be lining up to see what a 41-year-old quarterback has left if Brett Favre says he wants to come back.

Put it this way: If Brian St. Pierre can start for the Carolina Panthers -- which he did last season -- then Moss has at least a puncher's chance of returning to the NFL.

There is so much pressure to win in this league that a team getting desperate enough to reach for Moss' number isn't at all unfathomable.

The Chicago Bears were ranked 30th in total offense in the NFL last season. A big reason for that was because they lacked a wide receiver who could produce consistently.

If the Bears' offense continues to look as anemic as it did at times last season, wouldn't Moss be worth a look?

Moss
Would Tom Brady have become Tom Brady without Moss in 2007?

Couldn't an emerging team such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, featuring dynamic young coach Raheem Morris and rising star Josh Freeman, use a player like Moss to help with a playoff run in the tough NFC South?

To me, Moss' self-created retirement drama is little more than a hissy fit. A couple of weeks ago, Moss' agent, Joel Segal, said Moss is in "freakish shape" and "working out, two-a-days, all spring and summer in West Virginia."

I'm sure Segal was using some hyperbole to generate interest in his client. But as the season progresses, some NFL general manager will remember those words.

According to Segal, Moss didn't like the deals teams were offering and decided to do what he does best -- run the go route.

In the right situation, Moss could be an acceptable risk. But let's hope he's been humbled by the teams that are reluctant to sign him right now. Let's hope he has accepted some responsibility for the damage he's done to his reputation. Let's hope Moss understands that if he's somehow able to wear another NFL jersey, it will be his last, last, last chance to be remembered for his performance rather than his petulance.

It should bother Moss that as soon as his agent announced his retirement, people immediately began questioning his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials because his effort hasn't always matched his ability. That's right; Moss has fallen so out of favor in some circles that ranking fifth all-time in receiving yards and second in touchdown receptions isn't a convincing enough argument.

No, things didn't have to end this way for Moss. If he's lucky, maybe they won't.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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