Retired no longer, one of the most prolific wide receivers in NFL history signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers late Monday night.
On the eve of free agency, the 49ers made a move that was more than a year in the making according to
Moss heard about overtures being made by 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2011 season, the same year Moss sat out of football as a 34-year-old retiree. But when Moss was recently informed about the 49ers being intrigued once again, Moss decided to do his due diligence and travel to the Bay Area for a workout.
Expecting to meet up with team security or even his potential position coach, Moss was pleasantly surprised to be greeted Sunday night at the airport by none other than Harbaugh, himself.
The gesture completely floored the veteran wideout who ranks in the top 10 in nearly every receiving category, including ninth in receptions (954), fifth in receiving yards (14,858) and is tied for second in touchdowns (153).
“I was very appreciative of him doing that,” said Moss, dressed in a black and green track suit and an all-black fitted cap. “I mean, the head coach picking a guy up – think about that.”
It wasn’t just any pick-up made by the NFL’s reigning Coach of the Year.
Following a successful workout on the 49ers practice field, Harbaugh’s team added a receiver who has 10, 1,000-yard receiving seasons and six Pro Bowl appearances to his credit.
Moss said he’d already respected Harbaugh’s playing career with the Indianapolis Colts and coaching career at Stanford University and with the 49ers prior to running routes in Santa Clara. But after his personal pick-up was followed by an enjoyable on-field throwing session where Harbaugh put Moss through a number of short, intermediate and even back-to-back deep routes, the mutual respect only grew further between the two.
“They put it on me out there,” said Moss, a 13-year veteran, who joked with Harbaugh after the former NFL quarterback decided to take a seven-step drop instead of five steps to hit the speedy receiver on a go route.
According to Moss, Harbaugh still managed to under throw him even with the extra momentum.
Nonetheless, the two hit it off in the time they spent at team headquarters.
“We had a lot of fun,” Moss said. “It’s just a pleasure to be able to get back in the league, and really get back to what I want to do and that’s play football.”
Moss said he missed the camaraderie of an NFL locker room, but doesn’t see himself having any trouble fitting in with the 49ers.
“I know this is a young group of guys and with me being 35, I am a rah-rah guy,” said Moss, who stressed his respect for 49ers team leaders
Make no mistake, Moss isn’t back in the NFL to pad his stats. He’s back to make big plays, win big games and truly enjoy the competitive aspect of playing his beloved sport at the highest level.
Moss thinks he has plenty left to offer. On Monday, he displayed it.
In Moss’ mind, producing at a high level now that he’s back in the league is the best way he can properly pay his respects to the organization that went out of its way to accommodate his recent arrival.
“That just showed me, (Harbaugh) has a lot of respect for me and by me signing here, I want to give the same in return and that’s productivity on that field,” Moss said.
At 35, Moss still has plenty to showcase. He’s yet to win a Super Bowl and could find himself positioned to do it under a Harbaugh-led 49ers team that won the NFC West in his first year. However, chasing a World Championship doesn’t consume Moss.
“I know this organization wants the Super Bowl but I’ve always tried to take it one game at a time,” Moss said. “That’s a long-term goal for us to get to the Super Bowl, but first of all, you’ve got to take it one game at a time, win your division, make the playoffs and then you can look at the end of the road and that’s the Super Bowl ring.”
Before Moss and the 49ers can take things one game at a time, they’ll take things one day at a time. Moss looks forward to continuing to meet with teammates and coaches and of course, getting to know Greg Roman’s offensive playbook.
“Coming back for the camps and things like that, I’ll hurry up and know what my role's going to be and hopefully that’s catching touchdowns,” Moss said with a smile.
Moss is even eager for practice sessions. Not only to build timing with the 49ers offense, but to attack its defense, too.
“I look forward to working with the offensive coordinator,” Moss said. “I look forward to working with the guys on the offensive side. Hopefully getting out here at camps and see what we can do to this defense.”
The 49ers ranked 29th in passing last season, finishing the year with just one pass completed for more than 41 yards. Moss’ presence could give those numbers a boost. However, Moss will need to display that time off did him more help than harm. Moss last played in 2010 when he spent the year with three different teams (New England, Minnesota and Tennessee). That year, Moss caught 28 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns while appearing in 16 games.
Away from the game for one year, Moss was mesmerized with how Harbaugh and his staff transformed the 49ers into a team one win away from reaching the Super Bowl.
“I told him, as a sports fan, as a football fan, he raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the football world on what he was able to do in such a short period of time,” Moss said.
The 49ers still have two receivers set to hit the free agent market in
Moss also hopes his presence gives the 49ers Faithful more reasons to be excited.
“The 49ers fans are crazy,” Moss said. “So hopefully we come through here and play some ball and just give them what they want and get them out their seats. That’s what I want to do.”
That, and showing the world he can still play at the highest level.
“I’m here to play some football. I know there’s a great core of guys here and they’re young. By me being 35 years old, hopefully they don’t buy a wheelchair, or no rocker or no old man stuff, because I’m still young. I feel it.”