Moss Might Be Redskins' MIP: Most Indispensable Player

Receiver showing just how valuable he is to franchise

Santana Moss stood in the biting wind with a red and white ski cap on his head and his fists tucked inside hand warmers on the front of his jersey.

The nimble Washington Redskins receiver, who on Wednesday became the unlikely recipient of the NFC special teams player of the week award, was given the day off because of a slightly strained hamstring.

He's expected to play Monday night against Pittsburgh -- after all, Moss is arguably the most indispensable player on the roster.

How much so? Coach Jim Zorn literally shuddered when asked to imagine life without Moss.

"It would be very hard," Zorn said. "Because you lose all that run-after-the-catch, you lose the quick escape. We've put him a little more inside and out, so he's playing different sets from different positions."

The coach paused, shook his head and added: "That would really hurt us. Don't even talk about that."

Moss scored both of Washington's touchdowns in Sunday's 25-17 win over Detroit, one on a 50-yard reception and the other on an 80-yard punt return. It was only his second punt return of the season and the only time he touched the ball all game on special teams, yet the runback was so compelling, it was deemed worthy of the NFC award.

"I think everybody should get up off their seats when you see him on the field," Zorn said, "because he's a tremendous athlete. Is he doing the extraordinary? He's kind of playing to his ability. He really is."

Moss hasn't returned punts regularly since his four-year stint with the New York Jets before coming to the Redskins in 2005, so winning a special teams award wasn't at the top of a list of predictions for 2008.

Moss was offered several congratulations during an interview Wednesday outside the locker room -- and accepted them in stride.

"That's why I never predict nothing at the beginning of the year," Moss said. "You never know what can happen. You just stick to what you do and put your best out there. I don't make goals. I never make goals. That's why I leave it wide open for anything to happen."

Moss said he didn't lobby to return punts, but he did plant the seed in the coaches' minds earlier this season. Regular returner Antwaan Randle El's numbers have been average at best, so putting Moss back there once a game seemed a good way to provide a spark.

It certainly worked against the Lions, who trailed by only six before Moss' fourth-quarter return.

"Antwaan Randle El is our punt returner and, every once in a while, we'd like to see Santana come in and return a punt," Zorn said. "I'm hoping to do that at some point each game."

Moss' value as a receiver is even greater, because the drop-off would be huge if he couldn't play. Moss (40) and Randle El (33) account for all but 12 of the catches made by Redskins wideouts this season.

Moss' 658 receiving yards rank fifth in the NFL, a considerable achievement given how much attention he gets from defenses. He was double-teamed and had zero catches against Philadelphia earlier this month and had only two the following week against St. Louis -- but he's also had three games of 140-plus yards and four games with at least seven catches.

Since his arrival in Washington, Moss has maintained that statistics don't determine the best receiver, so it would be hypocritical of him to harp on numbers. Asked to explain his "I never make goals" proclamation, Moss said it came from his younger days when his stats didn't measure up to those of another receiver.

"So what I always told myself is you can't judge me because he had more yards," Moss said. "You can't say he's a better receiver than I am -- that's what his team allowed him to do. All I want to do is do what my team allows me to do. If my team allows me to catch that many yards, then I should have it.

"Just because this guy caught for a zillion yards or caught for a zillion catches, that doesn't mean he's the best receiver in the league. That just means he's just had a better year stats-wise, but did his team win the championship? Did his team go to the playoffs? How big was his role in the team's success?"

Moss did give a little ground when asked about his Pro Bowl chances. His only Hawaii appearance came in 2005, but his numbers -- and the Redskins' 6-2 record -- could earn him another trip.

"Yes, that's always in the back of your head because that's what you get judged on in this league: 'Oh, how many times you go to Hawaii?"' he said. "So if my play is up to that caliber, then I should go. If my play ain't up to that caliber and somebody beats me out, then he was the better man." 

Notes:  Moss wasn't the only Redskins award winner on Wednesday: RB Clinton Portis was chosen as the NFC offensive player of the month for October. ... Moss and Portis were among 10 starters either did not practice or were limited on Wednesday. DE Jason Taylor (calf) and CB Shawn Springs (calf) have already been ruled out for the Steelers game, but Zorn appeared optimistic about all the others.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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