Randy Moss made 259 catches during his four years in New England — but his Patriots career actually started with a drop.
A dropped call that is.
Moss, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, recalled his comical first interaction with the franchise, which acquired him from the Raiders on April 29, 2007.
“I went down to Houston, Texas, for a charity event. The draft was Saturday. I didn’t really pay any [attention] to the draft and the next day was Sunday,’’ Moss said Monday via conference call. “I remember we were about to go into a club and my phone rings. I pick it up and the man says on the other line, ‘It’s Coach Belichick,’ so I hang up the phone.’’
Moss then blurted out a few curse words over what he thought was surely a prank call. It wasn’t, as he would soon find out.
“So then when he called me back, I kind of felt small, I apologized and everything — I felt bad because it really was him,’’ said Moss. “And he just told me briefly, ‘The Raiders want to trade you, you have by 10 o’clock to get up here or the trade is voided.’ So, to put all that in a nutshell, I hang up, got my pilots together and made sure they had enough sleep, and got my behind up there to Foxborough.’’
It might have been a rocky introduction — though Moss still calls it his best Patriot memory — but it was pretty smooth sailing the rest of that inaugural season as he set acareer high in touchdowns (23).
“That was the best feeling I could have had to have Bill Belichick call me and tell me I was going to be a New England Patriot,’’ said Moss. “Because I didn’t know where I was going after Oakland. Was I going to hang it up or what?’’
That season ended bitterly as the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to spoil an undefeated season (“I would have to say that’s my worst [Patriot] memory,’’ Moss said) but he did have a stellar four-year run in Foxborough, collecting 259 passes for 3,904 yards and 50 TDs.
Moss finished his 16-year career run with 982 catches for 15,292 yards, and 156 touchdowns and will soon be just the sixth receiver enshrined on his first year of eligibility. Former Patriots coach Raymond Berry, Lance Alworth, Paul Warfield, Steve Largent, and Jerry Rice were the others.
Moss still follows the Patriots closely through his job as an ESPN analyst and he has some good news for the team’s devotees. He isn’t expecting a dropoff any time soon. His reason — or reasons — for his theory are pretty simple: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
“They’re going to keep winning as long as they stay together,’’ he said.
Moss said the Belichick-Brady combination is the gold standard in the NFL.
“You have a head coach that really makes every man in a helmet and shoulder pads understand what they’re there for,’’ he said. “And when you have a leader like Tom Brady — whenever we’re watching it [as analysts] — and if the Patriots get the ball back with three minutes or less to go, the first thing we say is, ‘Tom and them got the ball? It’s over.’ ’’
Moss believes what has made the relationship so successful for so long is the pair’s team-first mentality.
“I think, when all is said and done, all of these reports of who’s most deserving [of the credit for success] up there — I’m going to tell you what — as a player and as a fan, I’m giving it to both of them,’’ he said. “I don’t know who you’re going to put first, but if you’re asking me it’s Bill at 1 and Tom at 1A, or vice versa. You can’t put the other one second.’’
Moss also has seen the offseason stories about New England not being a fun place to play and he’s not buying it.
“I heard the report about [Cassius Marsh] saying something about it was the most miserable time he had up here — hey man, if you’re not going up there to play no football and you’re not focusing on winning, then don’t go up there,’’ he said. “Because of all of these parties and going to the club and seeing the women — that’s not going to happen up there. Man, they’re up there to win.’’