When he looked back on one of the most disappointing seasons of his 11-year career, Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss knew something had to change.
A year after recording a career-high 93 catches for 1,115 yards and six touchdowns, Moss in 2011 missed four games with a broken hand, lacked his usual effectiveness when he returned midway through the season and never got back on track. He ended the year with only 46 catches for 585 yards and four touchdowns -- his lowest output in nine seasons.
So Moss spent the offseason getting back to the physical form he had during some of his best seasons. The 5-foot-10-inch Moss has spent much of his career in the 185 to 190-pound range, but in recent years, has tipped the scales at 205 pounds. When the Redskins began their offseason conditioning program in mid-April, Moss showed up 15 pounds lighter than he did last season.
“I just wanted to get back to what I do,” said Moss, who prior to last season had averaged 73.6 catches for 1,023 yards in six seasons as a Redskin. “The last four years, I’ve probably played a little heavy and yeah, I still played at a high level, but I can tell there are certain things I wasn’t doing. I just want to get back to that.”
In his first three seasons as Washington’s leading wide receiver, Moss averaged 15.1 yards a reception. In the four years since, he has averaged 12.7. From 2008 to 2010, Moss averaged 5.4 yards after the catch, but last season saw his numbers decrease to 4.1 in that category.
Entering the second season of a three-year, $15 million contract that he signed last July, Moss wants to ensure that he continues making an impact for the Redskins.
“When it comes down to you being who you are, those are decisions you have to make as a player, as an athlete, as a pro. ‘What do you want to get out of this?’” Moss said. “I’ve just seen myself, watched myself, critiqued myself for the last three or four years, and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do a little extra to do what I need to do.’”
The Redskins signed receivers Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan in free agency during the offseason, and coaches are high on second-year wideout Leonard Hankerson. Earlier this month, coach Mike Shanahan named that trio as his potential starters at receiver. That would make Moss a backup for the first time since his second season in the league in 2002.
Moss said he views this year as no different than previous years, however.
“Not really. Every year’s a threat to me,” said Moss, who turns 33 on June 1. “I just go out there and do what I know I can control. I don’t play worried about something. I just handle what I can, handle what there is to handle, and as long as I handle my business, that’s all I can do.”
Regardless of whether his playing time decreases or not, Moss believes that the addition of Garçon and Morgan, and the emergence of Hankerson, will only help the Redskins.
“It’s just talent. This league is filled with it,” Moss said. “At this position, you’re going to get guys coming in year after year from college, from other teams, and when you have guys that played on the level those two guys played on, teams are going to want them. All that can do for you is motivate you to be on that same level.”