It doesn’t take much to get a wave of speculation started about Randy Moss.
The 49ers’ veteran wide receiver was for the most part a forgotten part of the team’s offense late in Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the Vikings in Minnesota.
When Moss was asked about his playing time after the game, his answer to the Sacramento Bee was “Next question.”
For any other player, that type of answer wouldn’t mean a thing. But for Moss – whose whole career has been filled with episodes of frustration with coaches and game plans when he believes he’s not being used – it immediately raised eyebrows.
His response, coupled with a report from ESPN Twin Cities that Moss was seen sitting on the bench away from his teammates in the fourth quarter, has caused some to speculate that perhaps Moss is no longer the happy, motivated leader that head coach Jim Harbaugh had said he was during offseason workouts and summer training camp.
Of Moss’ answer and the reports he was sitting away from teammates, NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus wrote Sunday: “If this all seems familiar to you, it should.”
Wrote blogger Larry Brown: “It’s too early to make any conclusions about Moss’ behavior on the 49ers, but given his history of implosions, it wouldn’t be surprising if this were the beginning of a meltdown. The odds are against him behaving well for the entire season.”
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported, Smith threw six times to Moss in Sunday’s defeat, but only one of the passes was in the second half. Moss finished with three catches for 27 yards.
Smith overthrew an open Moss on what would have been a sure touchdown early in the game, and another pass glanced off Moss’ hands.
But if there is any finger-pointing going on within the 49ers, it certainly is being kept quiet. So far, there isn’t a discouraging word being said about Moss.
Long the straw that stirred the drink – in a bad way – perhaps Moss is getting a bum rap for the “next question” response?
Smith took the blame for both misconnections with Moss in the first half and said that Moss “stayed positive the whole game.”
“We left too much out there – those two plays early to Randy,” Smith told the Bee. “He and I have to connect. I have to (throw) better balls there on both those occasions, because those were both key plays.”
Moss, who mostly sat in the fourth quarter while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham were on the field, says the Niners just have to learn from their first loss and focus on the next game.
This week, the team will practice in Youngstown, Ohio, before playing the Jets in New Jersey Sunday.
“We (can’t) just keep looking back at it (Sunday’s loss),” he told the Bee. “We have practice this week and the Jets coming up. We’re going to go ahead and watch the film and correct our mistakes and go from there.”