PITTSBURGH — The chip is still there, Lance Moore insists, just as weighty and sharp as ever.
Eight years in the NFL and a Super Bowl ring have done little to make the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver forget his modest roots. He can still rattle off the name of the players who beat him out for a job with the Cleveland Browns during his first training camp nearly a decade ago even though he was a long-shot undrafted free agent at the time.
Most of them are long gone. Not Moore. He’s still around, still trying to prove himself, still nervous he could find himself out of a job at any minute.
“I don’t know if I ever really let myself get comfortable,” Moore said.
Even if Moore spent eight productive seasons helping Drew Brees and Sean Payton turn the Saints into one of the NFL’s most consistent winners. On a team of undersized and underappreciated talent, the 5-foot-9 Moore found a home. He caught 38 touchdown passes in 101 games with New Orleans, morphing from special teams ace to indispensable target.
Until, of course, the math got in the way. A hand injury limited Moore to just 37 receptions and two scores in 2013. Knowing he was owed $3.8 million in 2014, Moore wasn’t surprised when the Saints cut him loose this spring.
“That’s how it goes in this game,” Moore said. “A lot of teams are trying to get younger and cheaper at the same time.”
DT McCOY EAGER TO LEARN NEW DEFENSE: In Tampa, Florida, Gerald McCoy walked off the practice field Wednesday, dripping with sweat and smiling. His mood got even better when he began talking about the revamped Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Pro Bowl defensive tackle has emerged as one of the NFL’s best at his position over the past two seasons and anticipates continued growth in the scheme the Bucs will play under new coach Lovie Smith.
McCoy had 91/2 sacks in 2013, more than doubling the total he had the previous three seasons combined. But his team has yet to make the playoffs since he entered the league as the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, and that bothers him a lot.
“That’s eating away at me, man,” he said. “I do all this training and preparing, trying to do what I can for my team for us to get to the playoffs. I just want to experience it.”
TEAM ADJUSTS AFTER LOSING WEATHERSPOON: In Flowery Branch, Georgia, coach Mike Smith tried to distance the Atlanta Falcons from the injuries that wrecked their 2013 season.
Now, even before the Falcons can make it to training camp, the team’s 2014 hopes already have been hurt by another crucial injury. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon’s season-ending Achilles injury Tuesday robbed the team of one of its defensive leaders.
Atlanta finished 4-12 last season, closing the year with 11 players on injured reserve. Foot and knee injuries limited Weatherspoon to only seven games, and he was still rehabbing when he tore the Achilles tendon.
The Falcons have improved depth after drafting four linebackers last month.
Smith said additions to the defensive line should give the linebackers better protection to make plays.