Even after a decade in the NFL, some players still get anxious for opening day.
Even some as good as Randy Moss, who was voted to his sixth Pro Bowl a season ago.
"No, I get excited every day," the Patriots wide receiver told reporters in front of his Gillette Stadium locker Sunday morning. "Especially coming to work. I think that this year is, like I said before, that the bar and expectations are so high, it's actually a little bit easier to focus because we know what we have to do. I'm not speaking for the team, but I feel pretty good. I'm actually waiting for Sunday and get another season started.
"It's not a bad nervousness," he explained, "it's just, we know what we have to do to accomplish our goals. That's why there's nervousness in there, because last year we did some good things around here … expectations were so high, and had already been set … Hopefully, we can continue that. That's where the nervousness is."
Despite his team going winless in the preseason, Moss insisted there wasn't any sense of frustration building up among him or his teammates. The focus, he said, was on next Sunday's season-opener at home versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
During that winless stretch of exhibition games in August, Moss and the rest of the Patriots offense had to go about their business without their leading signal-caller, Tom Brady. Moss, for one, is even more anxious to get back on the field together with his QB.
"I don't think just me, but the whole team is ready for Tom to come back," Moss admitted. "I think that he's the leader of this team and he does some great things out there on the field with that ball. He really wasn't out there with us in pre-season. I guess that's a good thing, but we'll see Sunday."
Good, perhaps, for Brady to have a chance to rest his injured foot. But what about working on his timing with his prolific target? Moss seemed confident.
"I think we'll be all right," Moss replied. "We have enough timing down from last year, plus the [mini] camps and also a little bit of training camp. So, I think we'll be fine. We're going to put our guys out there and see what happens."
Asked how he felt physically, Moss answered that there wasn't even a comparison to this time a year ago, when he was coming off a pre-season hamstring injury.
"I just feel good. Ready to go. That's about it."
No News Was Good News
Around 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon, several Patriots players received word that they'd been cut from the team. Others, however, didn't hear a word from anyone.
Rookie fifth-round draft pick Matthew Slater, the son of former Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater, was among the latter group.
"In my situation, four o'clock came and went," he said Sunday morning. "I called my dad and was like, "Dad, how'd they do it when you were playing?' Because I didn't really know what was going on. But I didn't get contacted, so I figured things had worked out."
Fourth-round draftee Jonathan Wilhitetook a similar approach to the day.
"Yeah, it's a little stress relief … I was kind of nervous," he admitted. "I tried to keep my phone by me at all times, just to be safe. I'd look at it every couple of minutes, but it came fast enough. I was happy to see the outcome and I'm still happy … to be a part of the team and to come and contribute my part."
Wilhite isn't sure yet how much he'll be asked to contribute next weekend. But he knows how he'll prepare for it.
"I'm a rookie," he said with a knowing smile. "I'm probably going to do what I'm told. I'm just going to do my job."
Slater, who has played positions in all three phases of the game thus far in his Patriots career, is also waiting to see where he'll be asked to perform against the Chiefs.
"I'm going to assume the same deal applies from camp. I'll stay flexible and be ready to do whatever they ask me to do. I'm excited about the opportunity and feel blessed to be in the situation I'm in.
"First thing that came to my mind was, 'Praise the Lord.' And second, there were so many people that supported me along the way that I feel like we made it together."
Slater said his father was one of those who was overjoyed that he'd made the 53-man roster.
"It was emotional for him. Seemed like he made the team as opposed to me. He was definitely excited and proud of me."
Sunday Practice Notes
The 2008 Patriots practiced as a team for the first time on Sunday afternoon (in uppers – helmets and shoulder pads), though not every member of the squad was present.
Safety Brandon Meriweather, guard Dan Connolly, guard/center Russ Hochstein, tight end Benjamin Watson, wide receiver Sam Aiken, and defensive linemanLe Kevin Smithwere not seen during the media's availability at the start of practice. Running back Kevin Faulkwas also absent as he serves his one-week suspension handed down by the league for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Several players who'd missed time recently were back, however, including Brady, wide receiver Wes Welker, and linebacker Adalius Thomas. Brady took part in passing drills with the other two quarterbacks, showing no signs of being hindered by his recent foot injury.
The Patriots made some additional roster moves just prior to practice. Wide receiver Chad Jacksonand veteran Pro Bowl safety John Lynchwere released, while six practice squad players were signed, all of whom were with the team throughout the pre-season: rookie running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, rookie linebacker Vince Redd, defensive lineman Titus Adams, cornerback Mike Richardson, defensive back Antwain Spann, and rookie safety Mark Dillard.
There was one number change as well, as rookie linebacker Gary Guytonassumed the 59 jersey previously worn by veteran Victor Hobson, who was cut Saturday.