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Super Bowl Snap Judgments

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Got a confession to make here in the desert: I love listening to Randy Moss talk. I have since the day the Vikings drafted him in 1998, when I first heard his trademark West Virginia drawl over a scratchy speaker phone in the Vikings press room.

For a guy who quite fairly built a reputation for saying some pretty outrageous stuff -- "I play when I want to play'' -- Moss has always struck me as a pretty thoughtful soul, capable of giving you both an intelligent response and a memorable quote in the same answer. My own personal list of NFL players who can produce those simultaneously is probably a lot shorter than you might think. You could count them on two hands.

I actually find myself agreeing with what Moss says most times, and there's something about the way he phrases things that consistently makes me laugh. Like the way he famously summed up Minnesota's humiliating 41-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC title game: "Man, 41 to doughnut. I don't know if I've ever been a part of something like 41 to doughnut.''

So with Tuesday being Super Bowl media day, I naturally made a bee-line to Moss's podium at the beginning of the Patriots' hour-long interview session. This was a moment nearly 10 years in the making for Moss, and I couldn't wait to hear his perspective on his long, strange trip to the NFL's grandest stage. To no great surprise, it did not evolve into a one-on-one interview. There were probably 120 or so other reporter types there waiting for Moss along with me.

No matter. Moss didn't disappoint. Not for a second. Here are my favorite pearls of Moss-ian media day wisdom, culled from 20 minutes or so of listening to him hold court. Tell me you don't think the guy thinks before he entertainingly talks:

-- On his feelings about not getting thrown the ball much in the playoffs, where he has just two catches in New England's two games: "The last couple weeks they've been double and somewhat triple covering me, and it was up to the other guys to make things happen.

"It's playoff time. Earlier in my career, I would have gone over there and voiced my opinion on certain plays and certain ways to get open, but now I've got younger guys such as (Wes) Welker, (Jabar) Gaffney, and (Donte') Stallworth, their bodies and their legs are a little bit fresher than mine. I definitely don't have a problem with what they're doing.''

-- On his increased maturity level in his 10th NFL season: "When I was young, the way I approached the game, I was very angry. Not at anyone particular, but just the game of football. Now I still carry that same chip on my shoulder (from being passed over by 20 teams in the 1998 draft), but now I do understand because I'm a little bit older.''

-- Moss is a potential free agent after the season ends, but he makes no bones about wanting to re-sign with the Patriots: "I'm still living a dream. I never thought I'd be a New England Patriot. I would love to finish my career as a New England Patriot. They have everything that you want in a football organization. From the top all the way to the bottom.''

-- Moss's take on the Patriots' chance to make history is a totally unique one. He actually recalled for us his childhood memory of watching the coverage of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, referencing Christa McAuliffe, the school teacher in space who died in that tragedy. I know it sounds like an insensitive comparison to make, but out of Moss's mouth, it some how didn't play that way.

"I think (19-0) would be big, because in this modern-day era, the older you are, the more historical moments you live to see. I can remember the first historical moment -- and it was a tragedy, but it was historical to me -- back when I was in elementary school and the space shuttle (blew up) with Christa McAuliffe.

"I still remember to this day how it affected me. So to live history, and I'm a little bit older now, and to be on the verge of making history, it's something special. Hopefully it's something that my kids and generations to come will cherish.''

-- On his failed two-year tenure in Oakland: "I'm a football player. That's what I do. Things weren't really going as I expected them to go. The expectations of the team were very high, but a lot of things got in the way. Football wasn't the priority around there any more. The team concept was kind of screwed up in Oakland.''

-- On finally reaching the Super Bowl: "Before I retired, I wanted the opportunity to play on this stage. Just playing in the Super Bowl. I wanted to be on this stage, to play the big game, the last game of the season. I'm set to come out here and show the world what I really got.''

-- Asked about his head coach, Bill Belichick, Moss turned in his best Moss-speak of the day: "Me and Coach Belichick, it's more a mental bond. We don't really conversate.''

Count me as glad that Moss conversated with the media on Tuesday, the Super Bowl's annual talk-fest. I think I could listen to the guy all day. His reputation says his mouth tends to get him in trouble. But I think it's actually one of the strongest parts of his game.

• Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce doesn't strike me as a big Tiki Barber fan. Pierce was asked if New York was better off this season without their retired Pro Bowl running back, and he didn't exactly side-step the question.

"We're in the Super Bowl,'' Pierce said, letting his point linger. "I can't speak for anything other than we're in the Super Bowl. We weren't last year, and we are this year.''

Take that, Tiki-man.

That makes two days in a row that Pierce might have had the quote of the day. On Monday, he bristled at the suggestion the Giants were only here as the necessary opponents for the soon-to-be 19-0 Patriots.

"They are standing in our way,'' Pierce said. "We're not here to hand over the Lombardi Trophy to them. We're not Roger Goodell.''

• The Patriots' 31-year-old offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned down the opportunity to interview for head coaching jobs in Baltimore and Atlanta earlier this month, but his name reportedly still remains on the Washington Redskins' radar screen. I asked him Tuesday if his refusal to interview was a blanket decision for this year, or could change next week once the Patriots are done playing games for the season.

"I haven't thought about that at all,'' McDaniels said. "At the time I made that decision, it was basically to say 'I'm focusing on the playoffs, period.' I'm not going to worry about anything like that. And if it comes up in the future, it comes up in the future and I'll entertain that at that time.''

That's a bit of a non-denial denial, but it sounds like he might listen to the Redskins to me.

• For a team that wore black suits to town Monday to signify they were going to be all business this week, the Giants were the team that seemed to have the most fun with Super Bowl media day. The Patriots weren't sticks in the mud, but they had a certain amount of been there, done that mentality to their demeanor.

I even caught Eli Manning ragging on his famous older brother, when the topic turned to Peyton's commercial acting skills.

"It hurts me to say this, but he's getting better with his acting,'' Eli said. "He's pretty funny actually. And that's not easy for me as his brother to admit. But he's worked on it.''

• That Stephen Gostkowski, he's no Adam Vinatieri. At least on Super Bowl media day. I have always made a point of spending a little time with Vinatieri on media day, just to hear him recount for the umpteenth time how he's a distant relative of both daredevil Evel Knievel and Gen.George Custer's bandleader. It was almost always the story of choice when it came to Vinatieri on media day.

So I buzzed by Gostkowski on Tuesday and asked the Patriots' second-year kicker if he had any famous/quirky family ties to compete with Vinatieri's?

"I got nothing,'' Gostkowski said. "I got a last name that's hard to spell. That's about it.''

• That's one ugly and out-of-control beard, Logan Mankins. Might take an hour to hack that puppy back to anything close to shaving condition.

• Could be just me, but Patriots No. 1 cornerback Asante Samuel doesn't sound too worried about being matched up with 6-foot-5 Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.

"He's not the first 6-5 guy we've gone against,'' said Samuel, who's generously listed at 5-10. True. Samuel takes on the 6-5 Moss every day in practice. Burress can't jump or run like Moss.

• Samuel missed a good bit of training camp in a contract holdout that was prompted by his distaste at being franchise-tagged by New England. Giants defensive end Michael Strahan missed almost all of the preseason while flirting with retirement.

So who needs August?

"Maybe we did start a trend,'' Samuel told me. "Maybe we started a trend that people can miss training camp and still have a wonderful season.''

• Strahan's getting a lot of predictable retirement questions this week. As in, are you quitting after this game? Put me down for he'll find a way to skip a good deal of training camp again next year, then report for another season.

"If we win (Sunday), that might be it,'' said Strahan, channeling Jerome Bettis. "And it might not. It's going to be tough, because when it's over, it's over. My fairy-tale ending would be winning the Super Bowl and quitting when I can still walk away.''

• Now I know I'm at the Super Bowl, because the driver of the media bus I was on this morning repeatedly got lost on her way from the NFL media center to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, site of media day festivities. The first year that doesn't happen to me at some point during Super Bowl week will be the first time that doesn't happen to me at some point during Super Bowl week.

• Speaking of UPS, which is what I just nicknamed the unwieldy sounding University of Phoenix Stadium, it's gorgeous inside, but looks like some kind of double-wide Gulfstream trailer on steroids from the outside.

And yes, the spaceship comparison just seemed too easy for my taste.

• Patriots receiver Donte' Stallworth was wearing a pair of diamond earrings to media day, and some optimistic gent tried to get him to say that he and not Tom Brady set the tone for fashion in the New England locker room.

Stallworth wasn't biting. "Tommy's the best-dressed guy in the Solar System,'' he said. "Have you seen him?''

• I'm betting that Zak DeOssie, the Giants rookie linebacker and son of former Patriots and Giants linebacker Steve DeOssie, will be asked 754 times this week who his father is rooting for Sunday. I stood near him for about 90 seconds on Tuesday and I heard that line of questioning at least twice.

"Blood is thicker than water,'' said Zak, a fifth-round pick out of Brown, his eyes already glazing over. "Everyone thinks he's torn, but we all know who he's rooting for. He's rooting for the Giants.''

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