By: John Molori
August 28, 2007

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THIS WEEK:

  • Carter's Country
  • Little League, Big Hearts
  • Carter speaks from experience about new Patriot Moss
    Georgia Little Leaguers win game and postgame

    OK, I admit it. I'm getting worried. The Patriots have played three preseason games and the only Moss I've seen is growing on the rocks near the players' entrance at Gillette Stadium. Maybe those Randy Moss warnings were true. Maybe he is a me-first, fragile troublemaker.

    Former Raiders coaches Art Shell and Tom Walsh have trashed Moss publicly. In the media, most views have been offered by people who have rarely interviewed Moss, let alone know him. So, what's a nervous observer to do? Here's what. Let's cut through the rhetoric and talk to someone who actually knows Randy Moss.

    HBO's "Inside the NFL" analyst Cris Carter played alongside Moss in Minnesota from 1998-2001. In that time frame, Carter mentored Moss and was a huge part of his development as a player and person. According to Carter, the two remain "fairly close." He pulls no punches on the Moss to New England deal.

    "I think it's great for both sides," says Carter, who caught 1011 passes and scored 130 receiving touchdowns in his 16-year NFL career with Philadelphia, Minnesota and Miami. "This is exactly what Randy needs. The Patriots have gone from perhaps having the worst receiving corps in the league to maybe the best."

    Carter was very critical of New England's receivers last season when the retread likes of Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel attempted to replace David Givens and Deion Branch. The outspoken HBO gabber sees the Patriots and Moss as a perfect fit.

    He states, "Randy fits in well. He loves structure. His history shows that his work ethic is strong in a structured atmosphere." Indeed, Moss had his most productive seasons while under the tough scrutiny of head coach Dennis Green and watchful teammates like Carter and Randall Cunningham in Minnesota.

    As for critics who say that Moss is too much of an injury-prone free spirit for the team-first Patriots, Carter responds, "Listen, there are 1600 players in the NFL. 1599 of them are free spirits and the other guy is just lying.

    "There are a lot of things that people don't know about Randy and they make unfair and incorrect judgments. The good thing is that Randy has never been a person who really cares about what people think. He doesn't care how the critics feel."

    Carter specifically addresses Moss's celebrated mooning incident in Green Bay in 2004. "I thought it was the funniest thing I've ever seen. He was mocking the fans of Green Bay who always moon opposing players. He didn't pull his pants down all the way. People didn't understand the history there."

    Fox play-by-play man Joe Buck labeled Moss's mooning as "disgusting." Buck is despised by many Boston fans for his perceived anti-Red Sox slant during game broadcasts. In fact, he was booed mercilessly by the locals during a Gillette Stadium remote broadcast last season. Animosity toward Buck gives Moss at least one thing in common with his new fans.

    NFL Network host Rich Eisen has publicly questioned why the Raiders would trade Moss after drafting quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Carter says it was a matter of happiness. "I don't know of any players who are happy in Oakland right now. Randy wants to win.

    "The guy went to two NFC title games in his first five years and he knows there's a chance that his career could now end without getting to a Super Bowl."

    Carter, who experienced his own off-field problems early in his career, has become an NFL giant in terms of his commitment to hard work, spirituality and leadership. His performance on HBO has improved by leaps and bounds, serving the all-important role of chief antagonist to cohosts Cris Collinsworth and Dan Marino.

    Carter's relationship with the younger Randy Moss was not always smooth. He chalks that up to youth. "When Randy came to Minnesota he was literally just a kid. Of course, I became a mentor to him. Veteran players owe that to the league.

    "If anyone has been in the league 12 or 13 years and a young player comes to your team, you have to be a mentor. Forget Randy for a second, I became his mentor because I owed that to the NFL. The league is bigger than Randy."

    Personality aside, Moss brings a heretofore-unseen element to the New England offense. It's no surprise that one of the first people to speak with Moss after the deal was Tom Brady.

    "With Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth, the Patriots might have the best receivers in the league," says Carter who ranks top 5 all-time in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and rushing/receiving touchdowns.

    "Wait until you see the influence that Randy has on these guys. He has so much knowledge and has seen so much in football. He can do things no one else can do.

    "In the simplest of terms, the Patriots are going to be able to run to the strong side because their opponents are going to have to commit the safety to Randy. Strong side running is a key to success in the NFL."

    The Patriots came within four points of the Super Bowl last season, but Carter still believes that Moss is a necessary ingredient for New England's dynasty recipe to continue to boil. And don't tell Carter that Moss is another Terrell Owens.

    "I would never compare Randy Moss to T.O. That would be totally wrong. T.O. is a guy who I think is mentally disturbed. Randy is a good teammate. If he wasn't, I wouldn't be here telling you all this good stuff about him, man! I never had a problem with Randy as a teammate.

    "Randy has not done anything worthy of bringing such negative attention to himself. Look, if the Patriots are going to match up with San Diego, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, they have to score points. Randy is going to help them do that."

    But what if Moss ends up being just a double-teamed decoy while other Pats' receivers get the ball? Carter answers, "I'll say this right now. If the Patriots don't throw the ball to Randy, they are fools. Every great player wants the ball. That's the nature of their personalities. Show me a guy who doesn 't want the ball every time and I'll show you a guy I don't want on my team."

    Carter says that the Moss-Belichick union is a terrific alliance, despite Moss's lingering hamstring issues. "Randy will work hard in New England because he knows who has the hammer. When he knows his role, that's when Randy is at his best.

    "Remember, Bill Belichick is a teacher, and a good teacher is not afraid to have a student that may have a problem. They'll be all right. I don't see any problem with Belichick and Moss getting along."

    Pats' fans hope that Carter is right and that Moss does not join recent number 81 disappointments Donald Hayes and Bethel Johnson. And lest we forget Stephen Starrin g who wore number 81 from 1983-87.

    Starring eventually faced an indecent exposure charge, which is fitting. So far in 2007, Moss, like Starring, has shown a hell of a lot more of himself off the field than on it.

    Child's play

    If there has ever been a more beautiful moment in sports, I have not seen it. This is how I'd describe the aftermath of Sunday's Little League World Series title game between Warner Robins, Georgia and Japan.

    After Dalton Carriker hit the game winning home run for Georgia in the bottom of the eighth inning, the US team naturally exploded into hoots, hollers and hugs, but as the celebration commenced, the attention of the boys moved to the Japanese team still on the field and drenched in sorrowful tears.

    The US team not only went over to their opponents and shook their hands, but also hugged them and consoled them for the loss. Several of the Japanese players reached out to the Americans and embraced them looking for any shoulder on which to cry.

    The Georgia players were visibly moved by the sadness of their fellow competitors, some were even moved to tears. It was as if they knew that they themselves were one error or one bad pitch away from the same fate. Imagine the depth of these youngsters, to feel sadness for a foe in the midst of such joy.

    The ESPN on ABC cameras captured the moment superbly and announcers Brent Musburger, Orel Hershiser and Dusty Baker were appropriately understated. The 3-2 win for Georgia may one day become an ESPN "Instant Classic." The pure and uncommon sportsmanship and humanity shown by the youngsters from Georgia is already legendary.

    John Molori's columns are published in Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, New England Hockey Journal, BostonSportsMedia.com and several newspapers and websites throughout New England. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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