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As SF prepares to play Minnesota, star receiver accepts limited role, emerges as team leader

  • San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss reaches for a pass, but Detroit Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey is called for interference on the play, during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA CLARA -- Under the harmonious reign of Jim Harbaugh, even a couple of enigmatic receivers are thriving as locker-room leaders.

Harbaugh hailed Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree as selfless, team-oriented players a day after the 49ers improved to 2-0 with a 27-19 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The 49ers' next stop is Sunday in Minnesota, where Vikings fans might struggle to recognize Moss, the former high-maintenance superstar who has reinvented himself as a lunch-pail player with the 49ers.

Moss has yet to make a peep about his limited role, and Harbaugh doesn't expect that to change.

"Nobody around here ever gets caught up with &‘The Guy' terminology," Harbaugh said. "It's about us. It's about the team. With Randy, there's no evidence that he's concerned about having &‘The Guy' tag."

Moss had just two passes thrown his way against the Lions (one resulted in a 14-yard catch and the other drew a defensive pass-interference call). In the opener against the Green Bay Packers, the six-time Pro Bowl selection was on the field for just 21 of 67 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

That's apparently fine with Moss, who hasn't spoken to the media since Sept. 6. After all, the 49ers are 2-0 for the 18th time in franchise history and look like the team to beat in the NFC after victories over the Packers and Lions.

"(Moss) knows football," Harbaugh said. "He knows that the team plays best is going to win the game. And he's been about that." Crabtree, too, seems to be shedding his image as self-absorbed. Once labeled by a rival coach as a "diva" and the owner of the longest rookie contract holdout in 49ers history, the receiver celebrated his 25th birthday last Friday by delivering a motivational speech to his 49ers teammates.

"It was a strong message — a real strong message, a team-oriented message," Harbaugh recalled Monday. "Michael is a great leader, in my opinion. He's the kind of guy who fixes things behind the scenes so that it's not for public consumption." Crabtree caught six passes for 67 yards against the Lions, including a pivotal 16-yard catch on a third-and-14 in the fourth quarter. That was one of three third-down conversion catches for Crabtree.

After reviewing the film, Harbaugh again praised the 6-1, 214-pound receiver for banging out extra yards after the catch.


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