SANTA CLARA — Randy Moss lines up wide for the 49ers, sprints down Lambeau Field with surprisingly familiar speed and leaps high for a pass against one-time Raiders teammate Charles Woodson.
It could happen in Sunday's season opener at Green Bay. It would define both the 49ers' and Packers' offseason strategy.
The 49ers are bringing Moss out of a one-year retirement to spice up the league's 29th-ranked passing attack. The Packers are moving Woodson to safety, hoping to rectify a defense that allowed the most yards in the league last season.
Moss vs. Woodson might be Sunday's most intriguing matchup. Heck, Moss vs. anyone is a great unknown.
"If he's really that deep threat, and if they were to hit Randy Moss on a big one early, man, that would loosen up defenses against the 49ers for a month," John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach and former broadcaster, said Friday on his KCBS 740-AM show.
Moss will start along with fellow wideout Michael Crabtree. Despite an improved passing threat, the 49ers likely will remain run oriented.
Don't let that spoil the Moss-Woodson reunion, however.
"I'm very happy to see Charles doing what he's doing and still doing it at a high level," Moss said. "As far as our film study, Charles is still out there making plays, like any other man in this league."
These 35-year-old veterans aren't like many others, however. Both have built sturdy careers that could get them enshrined in
Now they're tabbed to spur their respective teams in a nationally televised season opener that could dictate the NFC race.
Woodson, allegedly, will play safety in the Packers' base defense, though he could move up to nickel back or cornerback on occasion. Woodson shared the league lead with seven interceptions last season, and he also recovered a fumble.
"I think Woodson is such a difference maker," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. —...He's that talented a player, that knowledgeable a player that we're fully expecting him to play multiple positions"
In 2005, Moss and Woodson played together on the Raiders. It was Moss' first of two seasons in Oakland. It was Woodson's last.
But they didn't play together long. Woodson broke his right leg six games into that season, and Moss forged ahead with a 1,005-yard, eight-touchdown effort during the Raiders' 4-12 spiral.
The Moss-Woodson connection spans much further back, even beyond the 1998 draft in which the Raiders took Woodson fourth overall and the Vikings selected Moss at No. 21.
Said Moss: "We were at the Heisman together. We were on the high school Parade first-team all-American together. So I've followed Charles throughout his whole career."
Come Sunday, will Woodson be tracking Moss? Or Crabtree? Or Mario Manningham? Or Vernon Davis? Or Delanie Walker? Or Kyle Williams?
Yes, the 49ers sure seem to have enough options for Alex Smith, who is coming off a breakthrough season that included only five interceptions and only 17 touchdown passes.
"When you add weapons to the mix with Manningham and Moss, you can open it up more, because (Smith) has the ability and talent to do that," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
Smith is convinced Moss is ready to make a smashing return.
"No doubt in my mind," Smith said. "A guy like Randy, and the unique tool set that he has, creates a lot of problems. He gives them a lot to think about, a guy who has big-play potential."
In turn, Woodson gives the 49ers a lot to think about, as coach Jim Harbaugh attested. Harbaugh got to better know Woodson, a fellow University of Michigan man, while serving as a Raiders assistant in 2001-02.
"He's a very, very knowledgeable, savvy, strong player (with) very good coverage skills," Harbaugh said. —... Whenever you've got the ball around him, that's where he is so dangerous because he's so strong. His ability to whip the ball out, club it out, create turnovers, is something that's been well documented. And we have got to be really good when we're around him with the football, protecting it."