Sympathy for the bedeviled: On Moss

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Sympathy for the bedeviled: On Moss

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
I've cleared out a lot of 2010 NFL memories to make room for the 2011 season. But Week 8 is unforgettable.

Halloween night. Minnesota visited the Patriots and Gillette was humming because Randy Gene was back. I leaned over my seat on press row to scan the crowd for the funniest, weirdest costumes and kept seeing Moss masks. Who knows how many Patriots fans wore that plastic lookalike face that night? Hundreds? Thousands?

So many remained thankful for Moss' first season with New England: 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a record 23 touchdowns. A Super Bowl appearance. Some of them could probably recall exactly where he caught each of 50 touchdowns (in 52 total games) while wearing red, white and blue.

He hadn't left that long ago.

On October 4, the Patriots beat Miami 41-14 on Monday Night Football. Moss didn't have a catch. Two days later he was traded to Minnesota -- back to where he was drafted and spent the first seven seasons of his career. He was "home".

"To all the Vikings fans that are coming to the Metrodome, pull your 84 jerseys out, man," Moss said. "I think this is going to be a fun ride."
It wasn't.

The Patriots went 3-0 without Randy; Moss withered and burned with the Vikes.

New England beat Minnesota 28-18 on October 31. Moss had just one, eight-yard reception but a lot on his mind.

I headed for the press elevator after the game. I was covering the Vikings' reaction -- expecting press conferences from the again-injured Favre and a hapless Childress.

I looked to my right, through the glass look-in on the door that led to Minnesota's locker room. Seeing one-catch Randy Moss walk in was a surprise. He kept his head down and the brim of an all-black hat -- a Boston hat -- covered his eyes. Moss also wore a hoodless Georgetown sweatshirt. He looked scared.

My colleague, Danny Picard, and I exchanged a look as Moss took the podium. Something big was about to happen. I pushed "play" on my voice recorder and leaned forward.

"Well, Imma go ahead and start this thing off," he said. Then he stopped, whether to say a quick prayer from his foxhole or ditch the battle plan altogether.

"Imma go ahead and say this." he tried again. "Look, I got fined 25,000 for not talking to y'all. And, me personally, I really don't care, but at the same time I do ask questions -- I mean, I do answer questions throughout the week. But for the league to fine me 25,000 I'm not going to answer any -- more -- questions for the rest of this year --"

Here, he raised his eyes: Hear me. Know this. Listen. I wondered if he was mad at himself for switching "ask questions" with "answer questions".

'Here we go,' I thought.

"If there's gon' be an interview, I'm gon' conduct it. So I'll answer my own questions -- ask myself the questions and give y'all the answers. So, from here on out I'm not answering any more questions for the rest of the season. And, uh, enough said at that. Now we'll get to the game. Um."

Stunning. My mouth hung open wide enough for a hummingbird to zip on in.

After that much, Moss seemed spent. He expelled a loud sigh. "Tryin'a, tryin'a, tryin'a" he looked down to the left and couldn't help a small, ironic smile.

Another hard sigh. "Lemme hold it down. Alright."

Moss addressed New England's captains: Wilfork, Mayo, Faulk and "Tommy Boy".

"Man, I miss them guys, man. I miss the team," Moss said. "It was hard for me to come here and play. Been an up-and-down roller coaster emotionally all week. And then to be able to come in here and see those guys running plays that I know what they're doing, and the success they had on the field, the running game -- so, I kind of know what kind of feeling they have in their locker room, man, and I just want to be able to tell the guys that I miss the hell out of them. Every last helmet in that locker room, man."

"Coach Belichick, he gave me an opportunity to be a part of something special and that's something I really take-take-take to heart. I actually salute coach Belichick and his team for the success they've had before me, during me and after me. So I'm actually stuck for words just because the fact that . . . there's just a lot of memories to here. To the New England Patriots fans that . . . that ovation at the end of the game. That really felt heartwarming. I think I actually shedded a tear for that."

Another pause. I was uncomfortable. I felt I'd walked in on some supremely private moment. Which is funny, because he forced his moment into a predictably public routine.

"I don't know how many more times I'll be in New England again. But I leave Coach Belichick and those guys with a salute: 'I love you guys. I miss you. I'm out."

The Vikings put him on waivers two days later.

Today, however many hours after Moss is reported to retire, I'm unsure how to neatly fold and shelve what I watched last season. Moss' words from Halloween night stayed on my voice recorder for months. I think I wanted to keep it as a compass point to remind me of what was true when the editorializing happened.

Every outlet wrote about the presser. One called Moss' speech a "bizarre declaration". Others gave it the Spoiled Athlete packaging, stamping it a "Problem Player" week for Moss because he didn't get his way.

His past is prejudicial.

Moss has cut himself down since 1995. At least.

There's the DuPont High School fight that awarded him jail time and cost him a scholarship to Notre Dame. Then he upended a good shot at Florida State because of a failed drug test. He was drafted at No. 21 by the Vikings in1998, not because of waning talent, but because of concerns with his character.

Moss caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns in seven seasons with Minnesota. He also tested positive for marijuana in 2001 and was arrested in 2002 after nudging a traffic control agent out of the way . . . with his car. In 2004, Moss was criticized for walking off the field during a regular season loss before the game was over. The Vikings' patience with his irresponsibility was finally spent in 2005 and he was sent to the Raiders.

Injuries, a bad attitude, and continued failure of Oakland football made his two years there a wash.

New England relieved the Raiders of Moss for some fourth-round draft pick.

The rest -- from his brilliant 2007 to "LateGate", to the trade -- is history. Expect to read different versions.

I've read that for a potential Hall of Famer to spend his last NFL season sulking from one team to another, to another and another, is disgraceful. "He shamed himself," some have said. "He quit every time things got complicated."

Maybe I'm naive, but that's not all I saw. I've never been able to ignore the other side of Moss. Last season I thought he looked like a bewildered and angry foster kid bouncing from family to family and never really feeling safe.

"Im not saying that Im not appreciated here. But I would like to feel that sometime," he said. "This is the last year of my contract. Nothing has been discussed. Theres not been anything said. Not a letter. Nothing."

This statement came after Week 1's bout with the Bengals. The vehemence was unsettling because it burned up the back of a 38-24 win. At least one reporter called him out on it.

"I dont want to take away from the win. But I think that before this season gets started, I dont want it to be Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, and were sitting here talking about a contract. What I want to let you all know is, I know this is the last year of my contract and Im here to play it out. And I want to play some damn good football. Thats basically what Im trying to tell you. I dont want to wait until week 12 or 13. Every week is not going to be good for me."

The podium appearance was one gigantic red flag, but there were other, different warning signs too.

Moss led with his "long", tumultuous history. It was as though he believed that's what all the reporters were thinking -- 'It's Moss the Menace again' -- and wanted to steal it from their munitions store.

I heard a man at war with himself.

He talked about not feeling "very liked" throughout his 13-year career, then bristled at admitting he's thought about it and claimed "honestly" not to care. He was a mess of contradictions, professing his love for playing Patriots football after stating, "I'm not saying that I want to stay here."

Everywhere Moss looked he saw land mines. He imagined his words twisted and taken out of context before it happened. He felt vulnerable, but didn't want a damn person to call him weak. It was like he'd mentally boxed up his New England home even before Week 1 and was bracing for yet another boot to the ass.

Remember Karl Taro Greenfeld's 2005 Sports Illustrated piece, "Do Not Disturb?" Moss was enraged when his garage opener suddenly wouldn't work and the door was stuck on the tracks.

"You see?" he growled at Greenfeld. "That's why I don't let nobody into my house. They are always f----in s--- up."

That's why he doesn't let anybody into his life. They are always messing stuff up.

When the Week 1 presser aired people heard another millionaire bawling about money and playing time. The Patriots hadn't yet hustled to offer him a secure future in his contract year. Motivational tactic for the hopeful signee? Sure. Unless it backfires. I saw Moss in a corner, watching those signs of a healthy career disappear.

"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss later told CBSSports.com's William Bendetson. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling -- feeling not wanted. It is not like my production has gone down."

Moss' production may not have gone down, but Brady's threatened to. In New England's 28-14 loss to the Jets on Sept. 19, Brady targeted Moss 10 times but connected just twice for 38 yards. Moss dropped three passes and New York's shutdown corner, Darrelle Revis, was in the locker room for almost three quarters of the game. Brady finished 20 for 36 and had as many interceptions -- two -- as touchdowns.

The lesson: Brady had eyes only for Moss and that was great for Randy, bad for the Patriots.

A week later the Patriots beat Buffalo, 38-30. Moss played 58 of 68 snaps, but the ones he missed were important -- he sat on the bench for the start of New England's first drive.

Then came Miami.

Moss imagined his world falling to pieces. Both the player and team thought somewhere else would be better. But, for Moss, nowhere else worked because no matter where he went, he couldn't leave Randy Gene behind. He was searching for football answers when it sounded like he had more than football problems.

From the Feldman piece:

"I don't have any friends. I can't really have any friends. It's sad, really. It's lonely. But that's how I am. That's why I say that I don't really care what people think or say about me, because I'm my own man. Nobody helps me, comes and pays my bills when it's time for them to be paid, and nobody wakes me up in the morning or works out for me. My thing is, unless you've been in my shoes, don't say nothing to me; and if you don't care for me, then, oh well."

Sympathy for a devil? No. Sympathy for a bedeviled man, maybe.

"You know I am human, I do have emotions like every body else."

That's how I remember Moss.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Brady nutritional manual goes on sale, features avocado ice cream

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Brady nutritional manual goes on sale, features avocado ice cream

It was only a matter of time, right? You can finally eat the way Tom Brady does now that his nutritional manual has gone on sale. 

The Patriots quarterback excitedly shared the news with his fans Wednesday on Facebook, directing them to his website TB12store.com. There they could find a few snap-shot looks of the laser-etched maple cover -- natural maple, obviously -- and its contents.

I wanted to share with you guys another step toward achieving your peak performance. Check it out you will love it! #ididntcomethisfartoonlycomethisfar

Posted by Tom Brady on Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Brady's description of the $200 manual explains: "TB12™ Nutrition Manual is a limited-edition 'living document' containing information about our core TB12 nutritional philosophies and featuring a library of 89 seasonally-inspired recipes that you can use to support your TB12-aligned nutrition plan.

"The TB12 Nutrition Manual is designed to be modified and expanded over time using its unique screw post binding: as we periodically update this manual with new or modified recipes, we will send additional pages to all purchasers of the manual."

The recipes inside teach readers how to make such dishes as sweet potato gnocchi with escarole, carrot cake and avocado ice cream, the last of which has become one of Brady's most well-known indulgences ever since his "body coach" and business partner Alex Guerrero told the New York Times about it for a profile that was published last year. 

Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

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Patriots contract dance is a daunting one

We are in the Patriots’ silent spring. Aside from the ongoing mud wrestle Tom Brady’s engaged in with the NFL and the noise surrounding that, it’s quiet with the football team.

Minimal personnel outflow. An interesting haul of B-list free agents. A workmanlike draft of players who won’t likely make much impact in their rookie seasons.

But this calm precedes a roster storm the team is facing over the next nine months.

Nine players of major consequence are entering the final year of their contracts. On offense, it’s not a crisis. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is the only expiring contract.

Defensively? Different story. Linebackers Donta Hightower and Jamie Collins, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, defensive backs Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent) are all expiring. As is special teams ace and captain Matthew Slater.

But wait, there’s still more. A bunch of the free agent/trade imports the Patriots made are here on one-year deals: tight ends Martellus Bennett and Clay Harbor, defensive linemen Chris Long and Terrance Knighton and guard Jonathan Cooper.

Add in OL Marcus Cannon, RB LeGarrette Blount, DL Alan Branch, WR Aaron Dobson, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Jonathan Freeny, FB James Develin, WR Chris Harper, TE Michael Williams, G Cameron Fleming and lower-tier free agent signings like DT Markus Kuhn, WR Nate Washington, LB Ramon Humber, CB E.J. Biggers and DE Frank Kearse and overall there are 30 (!!) players with expiring deals.

A few of those players won’t even make it through the summer with the team. And the fact others, like Bennett, Long, Knighton, Cooper, Blount and Washington, are on one-year “show us” deals isn’t bad. It’s smart.

But the volume of consequential players – especially on defense – who’ll be looking for new deals means there’s an interesting dance for Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio to engage in.

The Patriots have to do what’s best for their football team. But some of the players whose contracts are up are obligated to do what’s best for themselves business-wise.

And a lot of them are in line for their second contracts. They are facing what will probably be the most pivotal financial period in their lives over the next few months.

Consider a player like Jamie Collins. A second-round pick in 2013, his initial contract was for $3.76M. You take out taxes, agent fees, expenses, etc. and how much money do you think Collins has to show for the three seasons in which he’s been a rising star in the league? Certainly not enough to feel financially comfortable for the rest of his life.

But – barring catastrophic injury – Collins’ next contract is going to be a huge financial haul that should set up him and his family for decades.

By comparison, Lavonte David of the Buccaneers signed a five-year $50M contract with more than $25M guaranteed last August. Both play outside linebacker at a high level. Both were initially second-round picks (David, No. 58 in 2012; Collins, No. 52 in 2013).

Then there are players like Harmon and Ryan – good rising players who are not going to be paid like stars and may never be Pro Bowlers but are going to play in the league for a long time. Last season, Ryan took a huge step forward, starting opposite Malcolm Butler, putting up some outstanding advanced statistics and increasing his profile around the league. Harmon had a similar year. Ryan will have made $2.77M by the end of his rookie deal; Harmon will make $2.71M.

Unlike Collins, who is a freak talent and is going to get teams throwing tens of millions at him, Ryan and Harmon have a little more uncertainty. If the Patriots present them with offers prior to this year, do they take the security of knowing they are program mainstays or do they wait it out and test the market.

Ryan can look at a player like Buster Skrine who signed a $25M deal with the Jets last year and say, “Whoa… that could be me.” Harmon will have to see the offer he gets from the Patriots and compare it to the one the team gave his good friend Devin McCourty last year ($47.5M). Is Harmon half the player McCourty is? One-third? Will another team see in Harmon the potential to be comparable to McCourty?

Hightower, a former first-round pick, is more financially set than the other guys staring at second contracts. Hightower was down to make $7.724M from 2012-15. The Patriots picked up his fifth-year option for 2016 which will pay him $7.75M. So he’s in position to make more than $15M by the end of the season. He’s another player who could command more than $50M in a new deal if he goes to free agency. Would he be willing to take the security of staying in New England for a deal that may not be as lucrative as what he could command on the open market?

That’s what Jerod Mayo did and it proved to be the right move. Mayo – who came into the league under the previous CBA that was more lucrative for rookie first-rounders – agreed to a five-year extension in December of 2011 before his fourth NFL season was up, 15 months before he would have become a free agent. The extension was worth $48.5M. Mayo wound up on season-ending IR in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and he renegotiated his deal a couple of times but there was good security built into that deal. He retired recently having made more than $42M in the NFL.

We could go on with individual situations – Malcolm Butler could reasonably expect to make more than Janoris Jenkins who signed with the Giants for $62M this offseason, but Butler’s two years from unrestricted free agency and making less than $1M in salary this year; Jabaal Sheard needed to prove himself after a slow start to his career in Cleveland led him to a the two-year, $11M deal he signed with the Patriots. He’s en route to doing that and is – thanks to signing that short-term deal – in line to get another crack to cash in while in his prime.

And nobody should begrudge these players for doing so. We all know by now the future physical peril they put themselves in and we will never run out of stories related to young men who blew their money thinking it would never dry up. The players owe it to themselves and their families to make sure they are compensated as well as they can be.

Belichick, Caserio and the Krafts are aware of that too. Their chore is to do right by as many of these guys as they can against a hard salary cap and make sure the team isn’t mortgaged to its eyeballs.

It’s as complex a contractual puzzle as I can recall.