SANTA CLARA — Randy Moss playfully chased reserve nose tackle Ian Williams toward the locker room after practice and razzed the second-year pro with each step. It was hardly a fair deal, given Moss' stellar speed even at age 35 against the 305-pound Williams.
"I'm not running with you, man," Moss joked amid laughs and smiles from both men.
While Moss is having a blast as he begins anew with the 49ers after a year out of football, former San Francisco star Terrell Owens is doing the same thing in the Pacific Northwest. Still bold and brash, T.O. signs autographs shirtless in Seattle — getting his fresh start at age 38 with the Niners' NFC West rival, also following a season away from the NFL.
Both are determined to once again become the dominating deep threats they were in their primes.
Neither cares to speak publicly about his efforts to return to the top form that put them among the best wideouts ever.
"One thing that I have learned (is) that people don't like the truth, so they'll just (have to) wait until my book comes out" to find out "why I did walk away from the game for a year," Moss said.
Moss and Owens have a couple of things in common: a shared confidence they can still catch the ball against NFL defenders, and a defiant attitude aimed at those who want to label them or knock shaky reputations they insist aren't all they've been made out to be.
Owens clearly still has some catching up to do. He missed five chances on passes thrown his way in his preseason debut during a 30-10 win at Denver last Saturday.
He has struggled to find his role or connect with competing Seattle quarterbacks Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson. Owens dropped a potential 46-yard touchdown against the Broncos and hasn't stood out in practice the same way as Braylon Edwards, the Seahawks' other new veteran wide receiver, who played last year with San Francisco.
Owens, these days showing a spiritual side after a couple of rough years, has had little time to learn Pete Carroll's West Coast offense. Moss, meanwhile, has looked speedy and in sync playing in the 49ers' system since Day1 wearing his new No.84 jersey.
During Tuesday's practice, safety C.J. Spillman jumped in front of Moss to break up a pass from Alex Smith. Spillman and Moss — two former college stars at Marshall during different times — then started laughing in a regular light moment for the defending division champion 49ers.
Moss has little time to worry about what people might say about him.
"I just love to play football," he said. "All that other stuff, I will leave up to you all. I have been playing football since I was 6 years old. The love that I have for the game of football is going to always be in me."
Owens has similar sentiments.
"It's all about being a part of something, rather than being the center of something," Owens said. "I've changed in a lot of ways in things that I've learned in the last two years, and I've had a lot of time to think about things. I just want to move forward and leave all the others things in the past behind me."