Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/24/12

Randy Moss' slow descendent into his brief retirement began after the Patriots' opening-day win over the Bengals in 2010. That's when Moss declared that he wasn't appreciated in New England; he also said there were people who didn't want him to succeed there.

Shortly afterward, Moss was traded to the Vikings where he fizzled. After that was his short stay in Tennessee and then his decision to quit football all together.

Given that history, it's not surprising that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh praises Moss at every opportunity; Harbaugh wants his big future Hall of Famer to feel loved. That's why anything that Harbaugh says about how well Moss is fitting in should be put in perspective.

However, other players don't have to flatter Moss, and most of them are just as glowing about him as Harbaugh.

Not only that, Moss dominated team drills recently. Quarterback Alex Smith found him at least six times in a 20-minute team session.

"The physical skills, I think everybody knows. I don't have to talk about that," Smith said. "But the thing you appreciate a lot, this guy's a true pro. He's played a lot of football. (He is) incredibly smart, incredibly smart out there. I mean, seeing the defense, knowing what he's doing, and (he has the) tools to beat whatever he's facing. It's nice."

Moss is not only helping Smith on the field, he's helping him off of it as well. "Just talking to him about different things, I'm even picking up stuff," Smith said.

It makes one believe that Moss could make a big impact with the 49ers this year, and might even lead the team in receptions.

"He's easy to throw to," Smith said. "You know, a guy that big and catches everything. Yeah, he's easy to throw to, makes you look good."

Smith continues to defend his play last year, which was efficient but hardly prolific. In 18 games, Smith never passed for over 300 yards in any one game.

"I could absolutely care less on yards per game," Smith said. "I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you're losing games in the second half, guess what, you're like the Carolina Panthers and you're going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That's great. You're not winning, though."

Smith, however, looks improved in offseason practices. He connected on a long throw to wide receiver Michael Crabtree on the lone day the media was allowed to watch and his chemistry with Moss is undeniable. But Smith cautioned that the 49ers are not about to turn into a pass-first team like New England, New Orleans or Green Bay.

"Balance will always be a focus," he said. "But especially out here in just helmets, it's tough to get great run looks. You practice that stuff to keep it, but it's tough to get the looks. The passing game is much better when it;s like this, when it's no pads."

--So far, Alex Boone is making the transition from backup swing tackle to starting left guard. Boone, who is nearly 6-8, has gained 15 pounds and is now around 315. Harbaugh called his work at guard, "phenomenal."

Boone is liking the more physical nature of the position. "It's a fist fight," he said. "I used to make fun of guards because they don't do anything. Tackle has always been where it's at."

Boone's perspective has now changed. His ability to succeed may hinge on how low he can get at his height to knock back big defensive tackles.

--The team will be without rookie running back LaMichael James for most if not all of their offseason workouts. The University of Oregon doesn't end classes until mid-June, right when the team's OTA's end.

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