The Moose Galloped Away

by Daniel Wheeler

After a long and productive career, Muhsin Muhammad decided to call it a career. This was, definitely, an inevitable day and even though his numbers were modest, it was clear that his time in the NFL was running short. In a business that players come and go, Muhammad had a nice long career in the NFL. While it’s sad to see such a productive player leave our game, this is the time where we should remember the seasons he gave to the Panthers and Bears.

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:   Muhsin Muhammad #87 of the Carolina Panthers runs upfield against the New Orleans Saints during the game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Muhammad was selected with the 43rd overall selection in the 1996 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He immediately showed signs of the receiver he would become. Muhsin was a solid run defender and, clearly, was a big part of Anthony Johnson’s big season on the ground. The Panthers blew up in their 2nd year in the NFL as they went 12-4 only to lose to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.

Moose, as fans would yell out after a reception, would continue to show the World that he was one of the most productive possession receivers in the game. In the 1999 season, Muhammad tore it up with, at the time, a career high of 96 receptions, 1,253 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Muhammad followed that wonderful season with a robust 102 receptions as he cemented that he was one of the NFL’s best receivers. Muhammad proceeded to go through a drought as he didn’t continue to show the ability he displayed in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

The 2003 season was a very different year in the life of Muhsin Muhammad. Not only did Carolina make a magical run to Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, but he took a backseat for the emergence of a new top receiving threat in Carolina, Steve Smith. For the first time in awhile, Muhammad was not the top receiving weapon on the team. But, Muhammad had a huge contribution to Super Bowl XXXVIII as he caught a Super Bowl record 85 yard touchdown pass, in the 4th quarter, from Jake Delhomme to put Carolina within 1 point of the New England Patriots. The game will, regretfully, be remembered by the kick that sailed out of bounds, but Muhammad and company put up a big fight in the 2nd half to make Super Bowl XXXVIII one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time!

After the amazing run in the 2003 season, Muhammad unleashed his wrath on the NFL. In a contract year, he finished with 93 receptions and career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns with 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns. That season, the Panthers started out a dismal 1-7 record and fought through a lot of injuries to end the season at a modest 7-9 record. Just to show you how Muhammad impacted the run, Nick Goings, a running back who was stored deep in the running back depth chart, finished with a career high 821 rushing yards.

Muhammad cashed in on his huge season as the Panthers cut him loose to avoid a 10 million dollar roster bonus. Then, the Bears made Muhammad a very rich man signing him to a 6 year contract that could reach up to 30 million dollars if he hit all of his bonuses; Muhammad was guaranteed 12 million dollars. 3 seasons later with 16 million dollars in his bank account, the Bears cut loose the veteran receiver as he didn’t show in his tenure there the abilities he showed in the 2004 season; Sounds like a common theme he had in Carolina after his amazing 1999 and 2000 seasons. Months after his release, Moose had a notable sound byte where he said that, “Chicago is where receivers go to die”. The interesting thing about that quote was that the Bears had 3 young receiving prospects (Bernard Berrian, Justin Gage, and Bobby Wade) on the roster; all 3 posted career high numbers after leaving Chicago.

In a role reversal from 2005, the Carolina Panthers decided to give the aging receiver another opportunity with the team as he was signed to a 2 year contract. Muhammad showed the World that he had, at least, one more productive season in him as he finished with 65 receptions, 923 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. Like the 1996 season, he was definitely a big part of a rising new running attack of Double Trouble (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart). Carolina surged to a 12-4 record, but the end was the same as Carolina lost to the Arizona Cardinals.

The one part of Muhammad’s game that never left him was his top of the line run blocking and, thus, why Muhsin had a job in the NFL for 14 seasons. Muhammad was a part of two NFC Championship squads: The 2003 Carolina Panthers and the 2006 Chicago Bears; Neither team won the big prize. Whether you like or dislike Moose, you cannot deny that he had a very productive NFL career with highs and lows. You better believe that Muhammad was a huge contributor in the bright careers of Steve Smith and Bernard Berrian. Teams revered Muhsin for his great work ethic and it showed on the field as he put on his hard hat and did his job for 14 seasons. Thanks for your years of productive play and, hopefully, we’ll see you on the sidelines, in the future, coaching more young rising receiving stars.