NEW ORLEANS -- In many ways, Randy Moss hasn't changed one bit. The ball cap was on crooked. The smile slid from playfully incorrigibile into arrogance and the proclamations were bold.
"I don't really live on numbers, I live on impact, what you are able to do out on the field. I really do think that I am the greatest receiver to ever play this game," Moss said at Super Bowl media day in the Superdome on Tuesday morning.
Underneath it all, despite the boastful claim, there was a different current. One of awareness and understanding.
Randy Moss has gotten older and a little wiser.
Moss has had many moments in his career but most have hinged on his individual achievements. If he hits his defining moment with a win on Sunday it will be steeped in team, and ironically, it will be in a much smaller role than he's been accustomed to.
"I think that what I've accomplished in my professional career and throughout my whole life of playing football, I've really wanted a championship on every level," said Moss. "I've always told myself that I wanted to win a championship on this level. Having a Super Bowl ring, I think my career would be complete."
Moss, who returned to football after taking last year off and signed with the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, had 28 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns this season. The 35-year-old has five receptions for 71 yards in the Niners' two playoff victories.
Niners offensive co-ordinator Greg Roman says Moss has been a quiet but effective leader and is still a player every team pays attention to when he jogs onto the field.
"No question. You can't minimize what Randy has meant to our offence. He's made clutch catches, he's gotten us going, huge first downs. I know most of his catches have resulted in a new set of downs for us. Not only that, but people respect, for good reason, his deep ability, and he has definitely forced defences to cover the deep part of the field with one or two defenders."
Roman says there will be a package put into this week's game plan featuring Moss.
"When Randy cranks it up now, he can cover some turf, he can get behind the defence in a hurry, and everybody's been pretty mindful of that, and that's why they're committing two, three people back there, which frees up everybody else," said Roman.
Ravens cornerback Corey Graham said Moss must be respected.
"It's Randy Moss man. He's been a great in this game for so long. The things he's been able to do have been outstanding," said Graham. "He's still got some of that breakaway speed in his legs.
"You always have to be prepared and ready for a guy like Randy Moss, because you never know. He's able to go over top and go deep."
Moss said he took last season off for family reasons but wasn't ready to retire. He went to his daughter to ask for permission to return to the NFL and she told him to go win a Super Bowl.
"Sometimes we forget, as parents, about our main objective in life. I think that I keep my family dear to my heart," said Moss. "I collect the game cheque and my family spends it. I think that for me to be able to take a year off; I've said it before that I really did cry, I really did. For me to be able to just walk away from the game, knowing that I wasn't ready, mentally or physically, it really hurt me, man. It really depressed me."
Moss has 982 catches for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns in his 14-year career that will end some day in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But with the Niners he's mostly been used in a smaller role.
"I don't like my role; I don't. I like to be out there playing football. One thing that I've always had to really understand was being a decoy. It was put to me, coach Dennis Green just said, 'Even though the football is not in your hand, you're still out there dictating how the defence is playing the offence.'
"It took me awhile to really understand where he was coming from. Later on and now in my career, I understand that my presence out on the field, I don't always have to touch the ball to be able to help the offence score touchdowns."
Don't be surprised, however, if Randy Moss throws the playbook out the window on Sunday and reverts back to his big play ways. He's been on this stage before with the New England Patriots and came up empty.
He says he can't forget that loss but he can put a win ahead of it in his memories.
Moss isn't the greatest receiver of all time. Jerry Rice is. But Moss is the best deep-threat wideout to ever play and he can still get behind everyone and turn a game his team's way.
One more big stage for Randy Moss. Expect one more big game.
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