Being the best not in the cards

To be the best in the NFL it requires concentration on every play. The best don't let others bring them down. The best elevate the game of those around them. The best think like winners. The has-been's do not.

So is that all there is?

Randy Moss simply hasn't been the player with the Oakland Raiders he was with the Minnesota Vikings.

Moss is tied for 45th in the NFL in receptions (33) and 40th in yards (455), although both categories lead the anemic Raiders. Moss is coming off a 2005 season where he caught 60 passes for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, his worst statistical season in a year in which he played in 16 games.

However, Moss clearly wasn't himself physically in 2005 after suffering rib, pelvis and groin injuries after falling in a heap in Week 5 against San Diego.

The problem in 2006 has nothing to do with his health.

Following a press conference announcing that the Randy Moss Award will be given to the NCAA's top return specialist in Division I-A football each year, Moss conceded the sad state of affairs with regard to Oakland's offense is getting the better of him.

His once-reliable hands have turned to stone on a handful of plays this season. He said criticism regarding the dropped passes is "fair." When asked why, Moss made national headlines.

"Maybe because I'm unhappy and I'm not too much excited about what's going on, so my concentration and focus level tends to go down sometimes when I'm in a bad mood," Moss said. "So all I can say is if you put me in a good situation and make me happy, you get good results."

When told of Moss' comments, coach Art Shell seemed stunned.

"That's what he said?" Shell said. "That's a problem he has. I don't have that problem. That's a problem he has to deal with. You hate to see that. You hate to hear that."

A Hall of Fame tackle, Shell couldn't wrap his mind around the possibility that mood would affect performance.

"You're expected to play. You're paid to play. You're paid to play a game that you've loved to play for many years and once you hit the field, you compete," Shell said. "That's the way I see it. That's the way Art Shell sees it, OK? "

Coming from the man who once said, "I play when I want to play" with the Vikings, Moss' comments shouldn't have been a big shock. Moss claims his love for the game remains strong, even if he is disenchanted with how things are going with the Raiders.

"I still want to be the best no matter what it is and what I do, and hopefully I'll reach my goal one day of playing in the Super Bowl," Moss said.

Oakland's offensive production makes that goal seem light years away. The Raiders are last in the NFL, averaging 229.7 yards per game and just 131.7 yards per game passing. They've penetrated the 20-yard line only 17 times and they've scored seven offensive touchdowns in nine games.

"I just think my game has been way below the radar, and the reason I say that is because when I came to the Oakland Raiders, there was a big emphasis put on bringing back the deep ball," Moss said. "Last year I was hurt, this year, I came in ready to go, 100 percent healthy, coming in with a new head coach and a different scheme of trying to rejuvenate the Raiders and get them back to the Raiders of old.

"That's one thing that has bothered me, knowing we have weapons to go out there and stretch the field, such as myself, but we're not getting it done. I don't know if you put that on the players' shoulders or the coordinator's shoulders."

Offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, out of the NFL since 1994, when he was on Shell's staff, has taken the brunt of the criticism regarding Oakland's offense. Some of that criticism began to seep out from the inside following a 17-13 loss to Denver.

Quarterback Andrew Walter said it was a "fair statement" to term the offense predictable, said the playbook lacked depth and that he wanted to see more ball-control passes to go along with the five- and seven-step drops the Raiders stress.

Oakland quarterbacks have been sacked 44 times, 15 more times than the 31st-ranked team in terms of protection.

Shell refuted Walter's claims, saying there were plays to be made that weren't being made.

Moss thinks, given the chance, he can still make big plays. Ex-Raiders turned analysts such as Tim Brown and Rod Woodson share the same opinion regarding Moss -- he is one of the best jump and catch receivers ever, but not particularly good at running routes or working inside.

Without the precision in his game of a Jerry Rice, it's conceivable Moss, 29, may not be as productive as he ages. Moss said he has plenty left if the circumstances are right.

"Given the opportunity to be myself and make plays, a nine-year vet knowing that I might not be able to do the things I used to do back in the day, but if you give me some help I'll show you something," Moss said.


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