Fleet wideout is ready for a breakout season
WR Santana Moss predicts a HUGE season in 2003
Santana Moss has heard it all before. He's too small to be an effective every-down receiver in the National Football League. He's injury prone. Can he play a full season?
Moss, who was a heralded first round draft pick in 2001, played in just five games that season due to torn cartilage in his left knee sustained in an intra-squad game during the preseason and consequent surgery. He was later felled by hamstring problems. It was, for all intents and purposes, a lost season.
While the 2002 preseason and regular season did include an assortment of ailments, such as a thigh injury, a strained hip flexor, a quadriceps pull, and a sprained left ankle suffered during a Monday Night contest in Oakland, none of them shelved Moss for an extensive period of time.
He played in 15 games, starting three, caught 30 balls for 473 yards and scored four touchdowns. But it was on the punt team where he had his biggest impact and solidified his place as one of the premier return men in the game. Moss became the first player since J.T. Smith in 1979 to have punt return TDs in successive games - a 63-yarder vs the Browns and a 53-yard jaunt at San Diego. He also led both the AFC and NFL with a 16.5 average.
A recent conversation that Jets Insider.com had with Moss at Jets minicamp gives you the impression that he's on a mission in 2003. The swagger and confidence he displayed at the University of Miami are back. More importantly, he's healthy. He says there are no lingering effects from his knee injury. He is pain free. In fact, he says he didn't encounter any pain last season. For him, it was all a matter of getting his sea legs back, so to speak.
"When you are weak there, as far as your legs go, you're not going to be as strong as you were," Moss said. "Last year I felt like I did everything I wanted to do on my leg. It just wasn't as strong as it was. And that's because I didn't really emphasize working on it because I had to let it heal."
It's evident from his rippling torso that Moss has made a concerted effort to bulk up his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame during the offseason. He wants to get bigger and stronger, mainly to help guard against the rigors an NFL season can wreak on the human body. But more so to win a starting job. He is determined to prove that he's more than just a "special" special teams player.
Moss returned to his native Miami, Fla. and participated in a workout group comprised of former Hurricanes players, including Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, and Ed Reed. Three days a week Moss and his buddies pumped iron under the direction of Andreu Swasey, Miami's Head Strength and Conditioning Coach.
It was a chance to rekindle old friendships and forget about the gridiron.
"I left football alone," he said. "I basically just hit the weight room. I did some things with my legs that I couldn't last year because of my injury. I really hit the legs real hard. I made sure I got my squats in. E.J. [Edgerrin James] had a similar injury to mine, but his was a little different. He was doing the same thing with his legs. We were building our base so we could be ready for the coming season."
Entering his third season in the league, Moss is developing, evolving, and more importantly, maturing as a player. He is becoming more familiar with the defensive backs, adjusting to the opposing schemes, and figuring out ways to get open. Best of all, he's learned that while speed may indeed kill, sometimes it's wise to operate out of second or third gear, as opposed to keeping it in first.
"You don't have to fly out and run fast every route," said Moss. "Every route doesn't have to be a 4.2. But I'm a guy that's used to using his speed all the time. It kind of helps me to be able to run that fast and get open. I learned last year that I didn't have to do that on every route. It kind of made me a more patient guy when it comes to running routes. And seeing the defense, seeing the schemes before I just go out there and run a route without knowing what coverage is being played against me."
From talking with Moss, you get the feeling that if he had his way, he'd strap on his helmet today for a chance to get back on the field for another crack at the Raiders. Having had a chance to get the kinks out, become more acclimated to the Jets offensive system, and work in some reps with Chad Pennington, Moss is looking forward to training camp and beyond.
"It's all positive," said Moss of his minicamp impressions. "We were able to get back into the flow of football. Just knowing where we came from last year, how we ended up the season, even though we didn't go where we wanted to go. But the things that we did as a unit, I think we can grow from that.
"As for myself, I'm growing yearly and every day. I feel that the more accustomed you get to this system, the more accustomed you get to this level, you're going to be a better a professional. Knowing that I have those years behind me, and I'm growing, I've stopped thinking so much and now I know what to expect. You can't help but look at the positive side of that."