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Moss Finds Raiders Pirates of Different Sort : Pro football: Linebacker’s escape from the hapless Buccaneers to Los Angeles has boosted his career and morale.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The tourists can’t wait to get to Tampa, Fla., land of sunshine, sea breezes, caviar dreams.

The football players can’t wait to get out. Linebacker Winston Moss escaped the dreaded Tampa Bay Buccaneer curse last April when he was traded to the Raiders for third- and fifth-round draft choices.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Moss said.

What’s not to hate about Tampa Bay football? The franchise hasn’t had a winning season since 1982, when it had a 5-4 record in a strike-shortened year. Since then, the Buccaneers have gone 2-14, 6-10, 2-14, 2-14, 4-11, 5-11, 5-11 and 6-10.

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Moss, a second-round draft choice, experienced 43 of those losses since 1987 and figured enough was enough. He might have played on better teams at the University of Miami, which won a national championship in 1984.

Moss couldn’t figure it out. For all its problems, Tampa Bay kept picking up high first-round picks and rolling out 5-11 seasons.

So, last spring, his contract expired, Moss plotted a holdout for the 1991 season.

“It was a mutual dislike for one another,” he said of his relationship with Buccaneer management. “I would have held out--more for not wanting to be there than for money.”

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Tampa figured it could trade Moss and get something in return or risk getting nothing while he sat out the season.

That’s how it works in Tampa, Moss said.

“It was just so frustrating,” he said. “The NFL season is too long to sit there, week after week, bitching about the same things. Most of the time after games, you’re going to hear the guys with the same excuses: ‘We did this, we did that, we can’t make these same mistakes.’ I heard that almost every Sunday for four years. That is a pain in the butt.”

The Buccaneers could afford to trade Moss, having switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense and gotten linebackers in the drafts of 1988 and 1990 with No. 1 picks Broderick Thomas and Keith McCants.

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The Raiders, who needed warm bodies at the position, jumped at the chance to pick up Moss.

“We liked him coming out of the draft, when he came out of Miami,” Raider Coach Art Shell said. “We always like to keep an eye on what they’re doing, wherever they are. Then, if you have the opportunity to go get him, you go do it. We were fortunate to be able to get him.”

Moss already is paying dividends. In the Raiders’ 16-13 victory over the Denver Broncos last Sunday, Moss recorded the first two-sack game of his career. He has replaced veteran Jerry Robinson as starting strong-side linebacker, a move that was uncomfortable for Moss at first.

“It’s been so strange,” Moss said. “When I looked at Jerry Robinson playing in Oxnard at training camp, I said, ‘What are they putting me up there for? This guy can still play.’ So it’s been interesting. The coaches make the decisions, but I respected Jerry Robinson. We’ve grown to be friends, and he just helps a lot being there. He’s more the person I look to and look forward to seeing every day. He’s really been good for me.”

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Moss said the philosophies of the two franchises, past and present, are not comparable.

“Here, the owner gets into it; he’s a hands-on owner,” Moss said. “It seems like everyone is more dedicated to winning. There, it was almost too business-oriented. The owner, the front office would put a product out on the field that would be so-so and try to get away with it. Here, they’re really concerned with getting the players they want.”

In Los Angeles, Moss has become all eyes and ears, eager to soak up tradition.

“It seems strange for me to be here,” he said. “I haven’t heard things like this before. So I just sit in the meetings and listen to players talking and coaches talking. They expect to do things here, to come out and play well. It’s just, ‘Get your job done. Come Sunday, you’ve got to be the one to step forward and hold up your part of the bargain.’ ”

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Moss wore out his welcome in Tampa, on and off the field. In January, he was charged with pointing a gun at a cocktail waitress outside a Tampa nightclub.

Moss pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge and was fined $400 and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Moss said he will complete his service after the season ends.


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