FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Randy Moss waved to the cheering crowd as he went out to the Patriots practice. When it was over, he signed autographs for fans pushed up against the restraining rope.
Then he jogged over to a flock of reporters and chatted pleasantly for 61/2 minutes before heading away from the sunny practice field where temperatures soared well into the 80s on Friday.
All in all, a positive first impression.
“He hasn’t gotten in trouble, has he?” New England safety Rodney Harrison said. “He’s a grown man. He’ll be fine. He’s a good guy and he works hard.”
He looked pretty good on the field, too, catching some deep throws as the Patriots began training camp Friday with a two-hour morning practice.
“That’s just part of football,” Moss said of the long passes. “As coach says, everybody has a position. I’m here to get open and catch the ball. I’m just trying to do what I can and contribute to the team.”
His contributions to his other two NFL teams didn’t always satisfy his coaches.
Last year, his second with Oakland, he often said he might be better off with another team. In his other seven pro seasons, with Minnesota, he made five Pro Bowls but also was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants in a game at Green Bay and was criticized for leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a loss to Washington.
Defensive backs Asante Samuel and Brandon Meriweather weren’t on the field at all Friday.
Samuel is holding out rather than accept a $7.79 million one-year contract after failing to reach a multiyear agreement. Meriweather, the Patriots first-rounder and their only unsigned draft choice, appeared likely to report sooner than Samuel. Agents for both players did not return calls seeking comment.
Moss’s effort has been questioned, especially if he draws extra coverage and isn’t satisfied with the number of balls thrown his way.
“I’ve done it my whole career,” Moss said. “If you’re asking me if I mind being a decoy? No.”
To coach Bill Belichick, he may have been like any other player on the field – from superstar to last-round draft choice.
“I don’t know,” Belichick said when asked how Moss looked Friday. “We had about 70 players out there practicing today. I couldn’t give you a rundown on each guy.”
While Belichick was typically noncommittal, Moss said all the right things for a star with a checkered past joining the best team he’s ever been on – a three-time Super Bowl winner with a demanding coach. Having taken a pay cut for a legitimate shot at a championship, he needs the Patriots more than they need him.
The players wore pads at their very first practice.
“It feels good to be right in the pads and not wait three or four days,” Moss said.
He passed the challenging conditioning test in which players run hard then touch the ground while changing direction.
“It wasn’t bad. It kind of hurt, don’t get me wrong,” Moss said. “Every team has a test, but here it’s just everything. If you touch the grass wrong, you’ve got to go back.”
The Patriots have great depth at wide receiver. They also added Donte’ Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington in the offseason and still have Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney. Stallworth is on the physically unable to perform list.
Moss was the popular attraction to the standing-room-only crowd of several thousand – some filling the metal bleachers that stretch from one goal line to the other and others sitting on a hillside.
He heard their cheers.
“Who can’t?” Moss said. “That’s just something that you try to block out because you have a job to do. It does feel good to hear the cheers and the kids screaming. That’s really who drives our sport, the children. It’s exciting and it is good to feel the love.
“But, at the same time, we have a job to do and we have to concentrate on what we have to do on the field.”
Harrison spent his first nine seasons with San Diego, whose troubles kept training camp crowds down.
“When you have success people want to come out,” he said. “In San Diego when we struggled you looked out and you could probably count how many people were out there.”
Moss and quarterback Tom Brady are a much bigger attraction. Friday’s throng saw them connect on several passes. But Brady says his favorite receiver is the open one and he had several other targets.
“I think that just makes everyone work a little hard just because Tom’s going to distribute the ball to everyone,” Moss said. “Who doesn’t want the ball?”