Although wide receiver Santana Moss, the cornerstone acquisition of the Washington Redskins' offseason, is not participating in voluntary workout sessions, at least one of his new teammates is confident that when Moss does report, he will be in great shape. Right guard Randy Thomas, who played with Moss in New York, said the receiver is training diligently in Florida and expects big things from him.
The Redskins traded top wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the Jets, and took a $9 million salary cap hit in the process, to land Moss, who has yet to show up at Redskins Park as the third week of offseason work comes to a close. Although these workouts are voluntary, Moss's absence is unexcused and tied to Washington's inability to agree to a long-term contract with him, Coach Joe Gibbs said. Moss, 25, had one season worth $450,000 left on his current deal.
Safety Sean Taylor has not been present at the team's voluntary workouts.
(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
Safety Sean Taylor, 22, who is seeking to renegotiate his rookie contract, is also missing the sessions and both players are working out with other former University of Miami players in south Florida, according to teammates. Both players are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who has declined to comment on either situation.
Thomas, who was a vocal proponent of shipping out Coles once he made his trade request, said he had a phone conversation with Moss a few weeks ago.
"I don't know what's behind it," Thomas said of Moss's absence, "but the guy he is . . . I guarantee you, he's working out. He's not going to be sitting around the house not doing anything. For whatever personal reasons -- we just don't know why -- he's not here. We'd like him to be here, but he's a Redskin, and I can't be sitting here asking why because he's my teammate.
"I just know this guy is going to like it here. He's going to want to be here. For whatever reasons he's not here -- I don't know -- I talked to him [last month] and he's an excited guy. He's excited to get away [from the Jets] and get a fresh start and take that role. We'll see what happens. You know how things are. I can't question a man's heart, I only question a guy who doesn't want to be here, and this guy is going to go fight for us."
Talks on a new deal have slowed and Moss has not been in the area since his introductory news conference, during which he stressed that he was a team-first player. The Redskins continue to work on a contract; Moss, who has one 1,000-yard season in four years, is seeking to be compensated among the top wide receivers in the game, sources said. Washington is about $1.5 million under the salary cap, must still sign draft picks, and anticipated trades and foreseeable cuts could free up another $2 million to $5 million. Based on Gibbs's recent comments on Taylor's contract status, the team does not seem inclined to make any significant alterations.
Despite the voluntary nature of these workouts, numerous players said they consider it part of their job responsibilities to be here. As Pro Bowl linebacker Marcus Washington put it: "It's pretty voluntary, like if your wife or girlfriend tells you . . . [not to] get her nothing for her birthday, and then if you don't come home with a present, you know you're in trouble. It's kind of like that."
Moss is supposed to be the focal point of an expanded offense after Washington ranked 30th in passing last season. The voluntary sessions are a time in which to learn the playbook and get in sync with the quarterbacks, who have been in meetings with coaches, running drills and throwing to receivers.
"If you want to be a Redskin, you might want to be here," backup quarterback Mark Brunell said.
Said starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey: "We're doing more than just playing catch. I don't know if chemistry is the word for it, but timing is one of the words you could use, and knowing what to expect from a receiver, and a receiver knowing what the quarterback is going to throw, where the ball is going to be, the velocity. This, as little as we are doing right now, is important, and what you do in March and April -- surprisingly enough -- really affects what happens come training camp."
Center Cory Raymer said it's difficult not to form an impression of a new teammate who is not present for his first workouts. "It's not a good start," he said. "We know who's here and who's not and we know who is here and just getting in and getting out as quick as they can."
Taylor drew attention last season for leaving a mandatory league rookie symposium without permission and being arrested on drunk driving charges -- he was suspended for one game and later acquitted.
"I would hope he would be here," said safety Matt Bowen, who started alongside Taylor before suffering a season-ending injury, "but it's up to each individual. It's not mandated by the league or anything. You have to want to be here, and if someone has a reason for not being here, I'm sure it's a good reason, but we'd like to have everyone here."