By Len Pasquarelli
92.9 The Game/NFL reporter
New Orleans – Football is often about relationships. Relationships familial, fractured, and in-between.
On the former, there is, of course, the relationship between the two coaches in Super Bowl XLVII, John Harbaugh of Baltimore and younger brother Jim Harbaugh of San Francisco. It is the Har-Bowl, as the media has termed it, and anyone who’s been here for more than a few hours doubtless is (a) tired of it and (b) still awaiting a great quote from either of the Brothers Harbaugh.
Suffice it to say that the Harbaughs share not only an obvious coaching acumen, but also a reticence as well. The tightness they share extends to more than their common bloodlines.
But there is another relationship for Sunday’s title game, one that’s a bit more incongruous, that hasn’t yet gotten much attention: The shared origins of Ravens center Matt Birk and 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss. Strange bedfellows? Well, bedfellows is an awkward term for any sport, much less football. But the two, both drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, have a bond that might be hard to describe.
“I would just say (Moss) was a great teammate (in Minnesota), extremely hardworking,” Birk said of Moss on Monday night. “I mean the things he did on the football field were fantastic. Those are the guys you want to play with, those types of competitors.”
For sure, Birk and Moss couldn’t be less alike. A 15-year veteran, Birk is Harvard-educated, one of the NFL’s best-spoken players, an articulate guy with perspective and viewpoint. Moss is, well, Moss. Combative, media-unfriendly, a guy who hears only the drummer between his ears.
Birk appeared in only seven games in ’98, didn’t start any, and didn’t earn a full-time spot until his third season in the league. Moss, on the other hand, was an instant impact player, scoring 17 touchdowns as a rookie and earning offensive rookie of the year honors. He helped lead the Vikes to a 15-1 record, the NFC championship game (where they notably lost to the Falcons), and recognition as one of the best offensive units of the past 20 years or so.
“What he accomplished that year,” Birk recalled, “was amazing.”
Birk, who might retire if the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII – Moss has said he plans to play another season – is hopeful that his ol’ buddy, to whose deeds he still pays attention, doesn’t revert to his prior form on Sunday. Moss has caught only 28 passes this season, and scored just three times, but there was a suspicion before the NFC title game in Atlanta that he might be a significant factor in the 49ers’ game plan. Even though he has yet to catch a pass of more than 25 yards from San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
A few Baltimore coaches privately acknowledged to 92.9 The Game that they feel Moss could be a factor on Sunday night. If he is, it won’t totally surprise Birk.
“He might not be the same Randy Moss (with whom) I came into the league,” Birk said. “But you don’t want to go to sleep on him, either.”