Over the next few days, I'm going to write about some of the more intriguing storylines as the 49ers head into training camp. (First full practice: July 27).
In my humble opinion, the most interesting bit of news in this last month of non news was Rich Gannon's interview on Sirius XM NFL radio July 9. Here's the clip.
Gannon said that he had spoken recently with Jim Harbaugh, who told Gannon that Randy Moss was currently the best receiver on the team. Not only that, Harbaugh told Gannon, Moss had been the perfect pupil, showing up at every practice since April 30 and sitting in the front row of team meetings.
The younger 49ers, especially the wide receivers, revere Moss and they follow him around like puppies. For instance, Michael Crabtree, who had been a back-of-the-meeting-room guy, is now sitting next to Moss as if he's the teacher's pet, according to Gannon.
"Randy is trying to be a leader. He's trying to set a good example for these young players," Gannon said. "You know, I think it gets back to what the expectations are. Jim Harbaugh -- not a ton of rules, but (he has) expectations for a pro like Randy: 'I'm here to help you. We can get you back to playing like you did a couple years ago. You can be a huge addition for our offense. You can help us in the vertical passing game. But here's what you have to do.' .... So far Randy Moss has bought in."
This, of course, is all good news if you're a 49ers fan. Not only does Moss seem like the deep threat the 49ers have lacked for, oh, the last decade. He appears to be the mentor Crabtree and the team's other young receivers have been missing in recent years. If signing Moss after a year out of football was a gamble, then the gamble is paying off nicely early on.
But it's also important to keep in mind that nothing has really happened yet. The 49ers haven't even practiced in pads. We're still in the sunshine-and-roses, sell-our-tickets phase of the football season when just about everything printed is positive and optimistic.
What happens if the 49ers hit a rough patch this season? And what happens if Moss, the Pied Piper of the receiving corps, is no longer happy?
That potential certainly exists. The 49ers have a tough schedule, they have a head coach who likes to run the ball and they have a starting quarterback who has shown a preference for shorter, safer throws over the longer, flashier ones that have been Moss' bread and butter over his career. Alex Smith's favorite target in recent years has been tight end Vernon Davis, and Davis very well could be his favorite target this year as well.
Moss is not like Terrell Owens in that he hasn't pouted or complained publicly or insulted his quarterback or otherwise set fire to his team during down periods. But he has become detached and disinterested at previous stops when he wasn't involved in the offense or when he lost respect for his coaches and teammates.
The 49ers are betting that a positive and productive Randy Moss will lift everyone around him. The trick is making sure everything remains positive.
-- Matt Barrows