Santana Moss has a routine: Any part of his body that has been torn, strained, sprained, pulled, aggravated, nicked or tweaked gets smothered by a bag of ice every day. No exceptions.
That’s why, walking out of Redskin Park earlier this week, ice was fastened to his left knee, another bag was ready to be placed on his groin area and later in the day both hamstrings would be chilled.
“I’m not 8 years old anymore — I can’t just get out of bed and start running,” he said.
Now 28 years old and in his seventh NFL season and third as the Washington Redskins’ top receiver, Moss has learned how to take care of his body, particularly his legs. Because he’s a proven player, he’s allowed to take it easy during some practices. And it’s the reason why he didn’t play as much as the other offensive starters against Tennessee last week and why he will be ready to go Sept. 9 against Miami.
“I know what it takes to get where I need to be for the regular season,” he said. “Knowing that I’m climbing to where I want to be during the season, it gives me a lot of confidence that we’ll tear things apart.”
Currently, Moss likes where he is. The hamstring injury that cost him two games is long gone, and the groin-area problem that curtailed his offseason work is being monitored. For a player like Moss, who relies on his explosive first step and acceleration after the catch, healthy legs are paramount.
Against the Titans, Moss caught two passes, including a 39-yard reception on which he easily ran past his man and caught Jason Campbell’s pass in stride.
“Dealing with the situation I had coming into camp, I’m practicing more than I ever thought I would,” Moss said. “And that’s great for me because I don’t like to sit around.”
But that’s exactly what Moss had to do this summer, per doctor’s orders. The injury was in the groin area but wasn’t the groin muscle. Luckily for Moss, it was quickly diagnosed, an MRI confirmed its severity (surgery wouldn’t be required) and whether in Atlanta or Miami, he was strengthening the area and then resting.
Moss felt a pull while running one afternoon, the first time he experienced that kind of sensation in that area. He said it’s not related to the hamstring injury that cost him two games in November and wanted to clarify that the hamstring problem didn’t linger or nag him the final half of the season.
“I’m telling you so you can set it straight because I don’t understand when people say that it bothered me the rest of the season,” he said. “I missed two weeks, and it was better after that. I would rest it every now and then late in the season because we weren’t going anywhere, but I wanted to be ready on Sunday.”
If Moss is ready on the season’s first Sunday, the Redskins’ offense will be much better off. Two years ago, he went to the Pro Bowl after catching 84 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers dipped last year to 55 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns.
Earning Campbell’s trust isn’t a problem for Moss. His hindrance has been his supporting cast. If a reliable No. 2 receiver doesn’t rise, teams will continue to double Moss and tight end Chris Cooley.
If Antwaan Randle El emerges and Brandon Lloyd shows a pulse, Moss again will be a deep threat. In 2005, he had 24 catches of 20-plus yards compared to only 11 last year. He averaged 7.4 yards after the catch in 2005, opposed to only 4.3 last year.
“Santana has every quality a great receiver has,” play caller Al Saunders said. “He catches the ball extremely well, has great speed and change of direction and his ability to adjust to the deep ball is as good as anybody I’ve been around.
“He has special skills. If he’s healthy, he can be a dominant player in this league.”
Said Cooley: “He had a tough offseason and had to rest, but he looks quick now, and he’s always had the explosiveness. He’s definitely going to pull a lot of coverage his way.”
But don’t use the word “pull” around Moss. Same goes for the other terms associated with hamstring, groin, knee and quadriceps injuries. To prevent those hiccups, he’s married to the ice packs every night.
“One thing you’ll be able to say about me when I leave this game is that I gave it my all regardless of the situation,” Moss said. “I want to be accountable for what I do. I don’t want to ever sit in the locker room and have people think I didn’t work when it was time to work and didn’t perform when it was time to perform. That’s how serious I take this job.”