Last week saw the Redskins part with another member of that team when they released tight end Chris Cooley.
Of the 53 players on that 2005 team, only Moss remains — having played for three head coaches and prepared to play with his eighth starting quarterback.
But as the Redskins prepare to kick off the regular season Sunday in New Orleans, Moss has not only survived, he is still expected to be a key figure in the offense.
His role has changed. He no longer is the starter, thanks to the arrival of free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and the anticipated breakout of second-year pro Leonard Hankerson. This season Moss takes on the role of slot receiver, meaning he will come off the bench for three- and four-receiver formations, and could see time on only half his team’s offensive snaps. But Redskins coaches believe that with the lighter load, the 33-year-old will be more effective.
Moss, whose 488 catches as a Redskin rank fifth on the team’s all-time receptions list, refuses to see the decision as a demotion. He’s simply glad to still be on the field.
“Honestly, man, things change in life, and I’m well aware of that,” Moss said. “I’ve never been a guy that was complacent about where I am. I’ve never had a hard time adapting. . . . Whether the coaches need me to be the guy I used to be or not, and be something less, at least they gave me an opportunity. . . . You see guys come and go — guys that have been here a while — that are gone now.”
Last summer, Moss signed a five-year, $25 million contract to return to the team, but his production during the season was limited. He broke his hand halfway through the season and missed four weeks of action. Once Moss returned, he didn’t seem to have the same explosiveness, and finished the year with only 46 catches for 584 yards and four touchdowns.
This past winter, Redskins brass deemed the receiver position in need of an overhaul. So they signed Garcon to be their No. 1, Morgan to compete with Hankerson as the No. 2, and told Moss he needed to lose weight and have a strong offseason and training camp. Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also planned on having Hankerson and two other young wideouts — Terrence Austin and Aldrick Robinson — compete for Moss for playing time at slot receiver.
Moss reported for spring practices 15 pounds lighter and coaches remarked that the 12th-year veteran seemed rejuvenated. Moss emerged from the preseason having beaten out Hankerson and Robinson, and Austin was released.