Moore hopes to have bounce-back season with Lions
Lance Moore has been asked the question over and over.
"What happened? Why didn’t it go right? Why did it go so wrong?"
Moore, who is hoping to have a bounce-back season with the Detroit Lions, has a tough time explaining it.
He had signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but just never lived up to expectations there. He finished with only 14 catches last season for 198 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.
It was a far cry from some of the numbers he had previously put up during nine years with the New Orleans Saints.
In respect, an injury that forced Moore to miss the Steelers’ first two games put him behind — out of sight, out of mind — and helped give younger receivers such as Markus Wheaton an opportunity to emerge.
"It never quite clicked for Ben and I," Moore said, referring to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "It was kind of slow working me back in.
"I understand the game. Younger guys are making plays. They’re not going to take those guys out to swap somebody else in there."
The worst part came when Moore was inactive for a playoff game after not even catching a pass over the final three weeks of the regular season.
Moore realized at that point he wouldn’t be back in Pittsburgh this season.
"I knew that I didn’t want to be there anymore," he said. "The writing was on the wall. I could see what their future plans were for me. It was the first time in my career that I was a healthy inactive. I kind of knew."
The Steelers ended up releasing Moore in March, sort of a mutual separation, even though he had one year remaining on his contract.
That’s what led to this reunion with Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was a quarterbacks coach with the Saints during Moore’s time in New Orleans.
Lombardi is running a similar offense in Detroit, perhaps the ideal situation to try to get at least one more year out of Moore.
"This is the offense that I had the most success in in my career," said Moore, who will turn 32 during training camp in August. "Not everything is exactly the same, but most of the things are the same."
So much so, Moore believes that his experience in it can make him like "another coach out there, a coach in the receiver room" for an offensive unit entering its second year in the system.
He said he’s even been giving star receiver Calvin Johnson some suggestions on "a few little things route-wise that I think can help him a whole lot, make his job a lot easier."
Moore added, "There’s a lot of things I can do to help this team."
He had a career high in receiving yards (1,041) with the Saints in 2012, and career highs in catches (79) and touchdowns (10) in 2008.
So he undoubtedly has the resume. The question is whether he can still consistently produce at a high enough level at this stage of his career.
Was last year just an aberration for him? Or was it a sign that the end is coming sooner rather than later?
It’s possible one of the final spots on the Lions’ 53-man roster could come down to the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Moore, an undrafted player coming out of the University of Toledo in 2005, or 5-10, 195-pound Ryan Broyles, an often-injured second-round pick by Detroit in 2012.
For Moore, that disappointing season in Pittsburgh is serving as motivation now. He’s not ready to retire or get pushed out of the game just yet.
"It’s definitely motivated me," he said. "I would say that I’ve never been so excited to go to practice. I’ve never been so excited to just have another chance.
"I’ve been in the league 11 years. I’ve been cut five times. You never really know when it’s going to be over. I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t over, but I wasn’t sure whether I would get an opportunity, whether I would get the right opportunity.
"I feel like things couldn’t have worked out any better."