Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Randy Moss playfully chased reserve nose tackle Ian Williams toward the locker room after practice and razzed the second-year pro with each step. It was hardly a fair deal, given Moss' stellar speed even at age 35 against the 305-pound Williams.
In this July 27, 2012 file photo, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss smiles during a news conference at the team's NFL football headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif. Both Moss and Seattle Seahawks' Terrell Owens are both determined to return to their dominating deep threats they were in their primes. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
In this Aug. 18, 2012 file photo, Seattle Seahawks' Terrell Owens gestures during warm-ups before an NFL football preseason game against the Denver Broncos in Denver. Both Owens and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss are both determined to return to their dominating deep threats they were in their primes. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, file)
"I'm not running with you, man," Moss joked amid laughs and smiles from both men.
While Moss is having a blast as he begins anew with the 49ers after a year out of football, former San Francisco star Terrell Owens is doing the same thing in the Pacific Northwest. Still bold and brash, T.O. signs autographs shirtless in Seattle — getting his fresh start at age 38 with the Niners' NFC West rival also following a season away from the NFL.
Both are determined to once again become the dominating deep threats they were in their primes.
Neither cares to speak publicly about his efforts to return to the top form that put them among the best wideouts to ever play.
Moss and Owens have a couple of things in common: a shared confidence they can still catch the ball against younger, more athletic NFL defenders, and a defiant attitude aimed at those who want to label them or knock shaky reputations they insist aren't all they've been made out to be.
Owens clearly still has some catching up to do. He missed five chances on passes thrown his way in his debut during a 30-10 win at Denver last Saturday.
He has struggled to find his role or connect with competing Seattle quarterbacks Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson. Owens dropped a potential 46-yard touchdown against the Broncos and hasn't stood out in practice the same way as Braylon Edwards, the Seahawks' other new veteran wide receiver, who played last year with San Francisco.
Owens, these days showing a spiritual side after a couple of rough years, has had little time to learn Pete Carroll's West Coast offense. Moss, meanwhile, has looked speedy and in sync playing in the 49ers' system since Day 1 wearing his new No. 84 jersey.
During Tuesday's practice, safety C.J. Spillman jumped in front of Moss to break up a pass from Alex Smith. Spillman and Moss — two former college stars at Marshall during different times — then started laughing in a regular light moment for the defending division champion 49ers (No. 4 in the AP Pro32).
Moss has little time to worry about what people might say about him.
"I just love to play football," he said. "All that other stuff, I will leave up to you all. I have been playing football since I was 6 years old. The love that I have for the game of football is going to always be in me."
Keeping Owens in check mentally will be a big part of Carroll's challenge.
In 2006, T.O. made headlines for what police initially considered a suicide attempt but later was classified as an "accidental overdose" of prescription medication. Owens' publicist emphatically denied he had attempted suicide, saying an assistant arrived at Owens' home after he took a sleeping aid.
Following surgery on his left knee in 2011, Owens began his football return this spring with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, making 35 catches for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns while playing eight of 11 games. He was then released and lost an ownership stake in the team in May.
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In this May 10, 2012 file photo, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss catches a ball during NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Santa Clara, Calif. Both Moss and Seattle Seahawks' Terrell Owens are both determined to return to their dominating deep threats they were in their primes. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)