Santana Moss brushes off talk of age, competition

Santana Moss recorded a team-high eight touchdown catches in 2012. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Santana Moss recorded a team-high eight touchdown catches in 2012. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — In the early stages of Tuesday’s afternoon practice, Robert Griffin III did what he normally does: spur a chain reaction of wild cheers and gaping jaws with his arm. But while it was the Redskins superstar who lofted the pass, it was Washington’s stalwart, Santana Moss, that made the highlight-worthy catch, adjusting his body along the sideline while leaping to snag a one-handed catch in single coverage.

“You’ve still got it, Santana,” one fan yelled amid the cheers.

“Don’t let them call you old, Moss!” another bellowed from behind the yellow rope.

Yet for as grateful and pleased as those clamoring fans sounded at Bon Secours Training Center, the 34-year-old wideout knows that such praise is fleeting, especially at this stage in his career. Each year, no matter how many games he started or yards he produced the previous season, Moss often feels like he’s still the same undersized rookie wideout, trying to prove the critics wrong.

“It’s a shame, honestly, when people see what you’ve been doing and you’re doing what you’re doing and they put numbers on stuff,” Moss said. “It ain’t about age to me. I think if you can go out there and play ball, just play ball. But, you know, in this day and age, people put numbers on everything and weigh everything, so when people look down on my age and think I can’t, I like to be able to prove them wrong.”

Moss did that often on Tuesday, snagging catch after catch in 7-on-7 and even flashing his zip in punt return drills. By the look of things, Moss was producing like a starter. But as was the case last season, the 13-year veteran will mostly line up in the slot with Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan serving as the primary receivers. In that role last year, Moss accumulated 41 catches, 573 yards and eight touchdowns.

“We’re trying to be one of the best corps in this league and I think last year was one of our breakout years as a whole,” Moss said. “We know who the guys they [brought] in to lead the team; Pierre’s that guy. But … whenever someone is clamped down on Pierre and put the cloud over him, then we’ve got  to show up. If we can be dominant together, then forget about who’s number one and number two.”

Had this been 2006, perhaps Moss would have been preaching a different message. Prior to that season was when the Redskins traded for and signed receivers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle-el — this in spite of the fact that Moss was coming off what still stands as his best season statistically with 84 catches for a team record 1,483 yards.

Although he missed two games and split time as the primary receiver, Moss again led the team with 790 yards during the 2006 campaign. After that, Moss says he realized that the depth chart can’t dictate how he approaches the season or makes an impact on the field

“To be honest with you, and I’m not trying to be selfish or cocky but I tend to not worry about what’s going on around me,” Moss said. “We have talent come in and out of this league and I’ve been on teams where I had one of my best seasons and we trade for two other top receivers the next year. So I’ve been in those situations and I’ve always stayed the same, stayed on the same course.”

When Moss hauled in that acrobatic catch from Griffin on Tuesday, it marked the ninth different starting quarterback he’s played primarily with in 13 total training camps. But for all the changes Moss has endured and though the twilight of his career creeps closer, the message he hopes to convey remains the same

“They can’t cover me,” Moss deadpanned to defensive backs coach Raheem Morris following the impressive snag. “They can’t cover me.”

Related: Can the Redskins’ top WRs produce more?

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What’s ahead:

Today’s practices are at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. If you’re thinking of going to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, parking and more.

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