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NFL: In need of a stage

Hart grad Moore is ready to bounce back; he’s just without a team or a league in which to play

Posted: June 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hart High graduate and Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore (3) throws a pass under pressure from Buccaneers defensive ends Stylez White (91) and Kyle Moore on Sept. 19, 2010, in Charlotte, N.C. Moore wants to rebound after a rough 2010 season, but injuries and the lockout have slowed his offseason.

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Matt Moore is ready to go.

Unfortunately for the Hart High graduate, the National Football League is not.

After a tumultuous fourth professional season that was cut short by a shoulder injury, Moore is once again healthy and waiting for an opportunity, while the NFL remains in limbo during an owner-imposed, court-upheld lockout.

Moore remains a restricted free agent for the Carolina Panthers, who drafted Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, one year after selecting three quarterbacks in the previous NFL Draft.

One can’t help but wonder, can anything just go Moore’s way for once?

“You know what? Yeah, I’ve definitely thought those things,” he says. “There have definitely been situations that could have gone differently, maybe positive or in a more negative way. I’m still here. You try your best not to get caught up in all that.

“You get yourself into training camp and make all your throws,” Moore added. “That’s the attitude I’ve taken. That’s the attitude anybody has to take. That’s just the way it is.”

However, there isn’t a training camp for Moore to attend.

When the league’s collective bargaining agreement expired on March 4 without a new deal in place between the owners and players, everything was thrown into a state of flux.

A lockout ensued, and then players filed suit against the league, the NFL Players Union decertified and the 2011 season was put in serious jeopardy.

In the meantime, Moore was busy trying to rehabilitate a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder while he watched his previous one-year contract run out.

At the beginning of March, Moore was offered a one-year tender worth the league minimum of $1.275 million, according to his agent advisor, Joe Aloisi.

“Where it stands now is they have my rights, but no one really knows,” he says. “Whatever happens with this CBA, there could be rules that change. I’m waiting until things get settled to find out what our guidelines are for this season, then go from there. As of now, Carolina has offered me a one-year deal, and that’s pretty much all I know.”

Last year, Moore signed a one-year deal worth a maximum $3.043 million.

“They are looking in a crystal ball and probably saying, ‘What is Matt’s value to our team? What is Matt’s value in the league?” says Aloisi of the Panthers. “I think what they are saying is if no one else comes along and takes him, we’ll get him at $1.275 million, which is a third of what they paid him last year.”

There’s another angle the Panthers could be taking.

“They are also saying that if he goes, he goes,” Aloisi says. “They are obviously not putting high enough regard in him to say we really, really want him. You have to look at both sides of the coin on this one.”

Hours after Carolina extended Moore his most recent offer, the lockout hit.

He couldn’t sign even if he wanted to.

The 2010 season was supposed to be his big shot, when he proved himself as a starter.

After early struggles, he was replaced by highly touted rookie Jimmy Clausen in week three.

When Moore was given another shot in week nine, a hit from New Orleans defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis ended his season.

The 6-foot-3-inch signal-caller was placed on injured reserve and underwent surgery in the weeks that followed.
Even his rehab was cut short.

During the lockout, players cannot have contact with their respective organizations, including team trainers.

“It was tough. It made it difficult,” Moore says. “I wasn’t able to communicate with our head trainer, who’s been great, somebody that knows me, my body and my arm very well. So time spent before this lockout hit was valuable time. Then it hit, and I had to go through this thing in the dark.”

He began throwing a Nerf football from late February to early March.

Then, from late March to early April, he says he began working with an NFL football.

He attempted more throws and worked to stretch his arm out.

His strength was coming back, and for the last month and half, he’s been throwing routes with receivers.

Now, he says, he’s back to 100 percent.

Two weeks ago, he started participating in organized team workouts that were set up by Panthers offensive lineman Jordan Gross. Gross’ trainer has been helping Moore with his shoulder.

Both Newton and Clausen have also been at the OTAs.

“I met Cam last Tuesday,” Moore says. “He’s been quiet. I think he’s shy in front of all the (veterans).”

Adding to his eventful offseason, Moore’s wife, Tara, gave birth to their daughter, Aubry, on April 1.

After workouts, Moore’s work has continued at home.

“Her being so new still, going to the doctor, making doctor visits, changing diapers, it’s been cool,” he says with a proud laugh.

For all the circumstances that halt his career, all the people who tell Moore he can’t make it, the four-year pro remains motivated to prove that he can.

And now he’s healthy.

He just needs a stage.

“I’ve talked to a lot of guys, and guys are more excited, ready to go, and ready to work in training camp more this season than other ones because it has been taken away from us,” Moore says. “It can be a lockout, injuries, sitting the bench, whatever. ... It’s going to be a big deal when this thing turns back on. You are going to see guys that want to play and have that drive, because it’s no fun when people tell you ‘no’ or ‘you can’t.’”

Count Moore among them.

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