Santana Moss’ game is all about speed and quickness. So Redskins receivers coach Stan Hixon groaned at the mention that his ace player is about to turn 30. That might be an age for bruising blockers and prolific punters - not Washington’s favorite gnat.
“We always wonder [about increasing age] because you don’t last forever, but last season Santana was our best receiver going,” Hixon said. “He had more catches and more touchdowns [than in 2007]. He’s still got it. I don’t see him slowing down.”
Neither does Moss, who isn’t shying away from the impending milestone. If anything, he’s embracing it, saying his 30th birthday party in June will be even bigger than his publicly celebrated 29th. And it was Moss, not some young guy threatening his status as king of Washington’s wideouts, who brought up the subject of his advancing age.
“I’m getting older, and I need something to challenge me,” Moss said. “You start getting up in age, and you want something different. Every year you do the same thing, and it kinda gets like ‘Groundhog Day.’ Is there anything else I can do?”
That search for a challenge is in part why Moss stayed home in South Florida and away from Redskin Park until this weekend’s mandatory minicamp. Moss always has preferred to work out in the sunshine rather than deal with the D.C. area’s inconsistent spring. And he has also become enamored of unconventional preparation for the grind that is an NFL season.
The only other players who had been totally absent until minicamp were fullback Mike Sellers, middle linebacker London Fletcher and safety LaRon Landry. But even though Moss isn’t working this weekend because of shin splints, coach Jim Zorn isn’t unhappy with him - after all, Moss got hurt training.
Just not in the weight room or on the track. The former college sprinter suffered shin splints while running on asphalt as part of his new martial arts routine.
“It gets you in tremendous shape,” Moss said of the kick boxing-centered program he began last offseason after fighting sore hamstrings in 2007. “Last year, I did nothing for a couple of months and let the body rest. Then I built the body back up. It worked last year, so I wanted to do it again. I didn’t do anything until late March. I ate and drank and had a good time.
“Then I was on the weights for a while until I had to do something different. I hate the running and lifting all the time. I want something to give me a challenge.”
Moss certainly responded early last season to the challenges of proving he could stay healthy and flourish in Zorn’s West Coast passing attack. Moss had 27 catches, 421 yards and three touchdowns as the Redskins started 3-1. But other than an explosion (nine catches, 140 yards and a touchdown) against winless Detroit, Moss caught just 43 passes for 483 yards and two touchdowns in Washington’s final 11 games - seven of which were losses.
“Nothing changed,” Moss said. “We were in a new offense, and defenses needed time to adjust. When they did, they did what they always do: Take away No. 89.”
For that to stop being so simple, someone - second-year receiver Devin Thomas being the prime candidate - has to provide quarterback Jason Campbell with another downfield threat.
But the season is still four months away. For now, Moss, whose 70-catch average during his four seasons with the Redskins are a record for a franchise that has employed Hall of Fame receivers Wayne Millner, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor and Art Monk, is looking to June 1.
“I’ll probably be on the field next week [for the start of organized team activities], but if not, for sure in June,” he said. “I’ll be 30, but plenty of guys have played well at that age.
“I’m good. Don’t worry about me.”