Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Moss at a crossroads

On a snowy Wednesday morning, Patriots fans awoke to find an unfortunate news flash. Four team members had been sent home for the day (i.e. banned from practice) by Bill Belichick for showing up late to an 8 a.m. meeting. The players were linebackers Gary Guyton, Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess, and...

Randy Moss.

The inclusion of #81 was the most surprising. Moss is a team captain, and has produced more highlights than anyone not named Tom Brady. And it's important to give Randy a break, considering that the weather was absolutely deplorable, and traffic was likely a mess regardless of where people were coming from.

A report even said that one player called to let a team official know he was delayed. Considering how serious Moss has been about the well-being of the team, it's quite possible he was that player.

But we can ponder the effect a statement like this will have on Moss. Fact: He's been taken out of games recently. Fact: His past reactions to team slumps has been to disappear.

Fact: With a chance to erase those worries off the minds of New England fans, he didn't get off to a good start.

Moss should know that a disciplinary stand by Belichick, this one included, is hardly ever personal. Bill has his rules, and they are etched in stone. If you abide by them, you get to practice and play. If you don't, go home. Nobody gets preferential treatment, and that's true whether you're Isaiah Stanback or Tom Brady, Rob Ninkovich or Randy Moss.

Moss has two roads he can go down. One is to take this in stride, to learn that Belichick won't cut him any corners. He can use it as a learning experience, leave the house 20 minutes earlier and set an example for a team that will be looking for him to provide leadership during the most important four-game stretch of the season.

The Patriots will need Randy Moss to give it his all the rest of the way. He could start at 8 a.m. Thursday.

The other road? Do what he would have done if Dennis Green or Mike Tice in Minnesota, or Norv Turner in Oakland tried to do this. He could pout, get angry and decide that he just doesn't feel like making that much of a commitment. He could finally appease the naysayers who have just been waiting for him to implode since he came to Foxboro in April of 2007.

It's unfair for us to assume Moss will take the second road. He has been a great fit since leaving Oakland, has gained Brady's trust, and has transitioned effortlessly from enigmatic talent to role model and clubhouse leader. We should be shocked if Moss makes this a far bigger problem than it is.

But there are still people out there waiting for the old Randy Moss to resurface. Here is a chance for the new Randy Moss to prove them wrong again.

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