Redskins WR Moss wants football 'early and often'

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -No matter the playbook, no matter his role, no matter his stats, Santana Moss sees himself as a playmaker and a game-changer.

It's why the wide receiver wants the Washington Redskins to throw the football to him as much as possible this season. "Early and often," is how Moss put it.

It's why he wants to go back to occasionally returning punts, something he didn't do once in 2006 or 2007. "I haven't forgotten how," Moss noted.

It's why he is sure he can thrive in new Redskins coach Jim Zorn's West Coast system.

"To be honest with you, I never look at anything and say, 'It's not going to be a good fit,"' Moss said. "Looking at this offense, I've got high expectations."

So do his teammates and Washington's fans, who were hootin' and hollerin' when Moss touched the ball at training camp Friday.

As for Zorn? Well, it's hard to imagine the former NFL quarterback coming up with a higher compliment than a comparison to his own favorite target, Steve Largent. Asked about Moss, Zorn immediately raised the name of the Hall of Fame receiver who was his teammate with the Seattle Seahawks.

"Steve Largent didn't have (Moss') acceleration or speed, but (Moss has) a very low center of gravity, and Steve did as well, so he's able to make very high-speed breaks," Zorn said, "and it's very difficult for him to be covered."

That was certainly the case in 2005, Moss' first year with the Redskins: He broke the franchise record with 1,483 yards receiving on a career-best 84 catches and went to the Pro Bowl.

One might think that was a season to remember, to look back upon with pride. Not quite so. Actually, Moss gets tired of hearing about it.

As in: Why haven't you matched that production? Why did your yardage slip to 790 in 2006, then 808 in 2007? Why haven't you gone to the Pro Bowl again?

"That's the only thing that ticks me off at times - when people say, 'Well, why didn't he do the 1,400 yards again?' Well, go back and watch the offense. Was I doing the same things the offense allowed me to do the first time?" he asked, then provided the answer: "No."

"But," Moss continued, "I understand that all I can be is what my team allows me to be."

This is no ball hog, mind you.

More like someone who wants to help and knows he can.

"I don't go into this thing saying, 'I'm the No. 1 man.' I feel like that's given to you by your coaching staff and by your team," Moss said. "I'm out here to do my job, and whatever they call me - No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - it don't make me less than the other guys. ... If you go out there and work as a core, we all can be No. 1."

Keep in mind that Moss led Washington's receivers in catches, touchdown catches and yards every season he's been in town.

Teammates back up Moss' contention that his numbers were suppressed by a stop-and-start-and-stop offense the past two seasons.

The team ranked 15th of 32 NFL teams in net yards in 2007, 13th in 2006.

"We never got going in either of those seasons like we really wanted to," receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "When you have an offense like that, you can't expect those big numbers."

Randle El figures the changes under Zorn can only be an improvement - and he figures his running mate should thrive.

"You could put 'Tana' in any system, because of his breakdown ability. He can run routes, run them with speed and change direction at the same speed," Randle El said. "You really put him anywhere, stick him in any spot, and watch him work."

It's a combination of moves, pure sprint speed - "Fastest guy on the team, no doubt," according to cornerback Fred Smoot - and a knack for making a tough catch.

All are skills running back Clinton Portis grew accustomed to admiring when he and Moss were at the University of Miami.

"Think of Santana Moss being in the slot, moving around," Portis said, "and I put my money on him."

Moss told special teams coordinator Danny Smith he'd like to return to dabbling in returning punts by spelling Randle El, who voiced his support. When Moss is fresh and healthy - which was hardly the case at times last season - he feels he can make an opponent miss in the open field.

"I know that my job is easier than his," Moss said. "He's got to wonder where I'm going. I just have to go out there and run."

Moss is a sensible guy, though. There are limits to his desire to be involved all the time.

At his Florida high school, for example, he insisted on lining up wide, even though a two-catch game was a big deal in the team's Wing-T formation that emphasized the run.

"They always wanted me in the backfield," Moss recalled. "But I was, 'Uh-uh.' Those guys weren't blocking too well for me to be back there. I didn't want none of that."

Notes: DT Cornelius Griffin was held out of drills Friday as a precaution. "Things got a little sore on him," Zorn said. "Nothing major." ... Injuries from practice Friday: WR Malcolm Kelly (right hamstring and right knee), WR Anthony Mix (right hamstring), OT Kerry Brown (left shoulder), DE J.T. Mapu (sprained left knee ligament). Zorn said Kelly probably will sit out Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, as will S LaRon Landry (hamstring; hurt Wednesday).

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