After breakthrough season,Moulds looks for repeat

FREDONIA, N.Y. (AP) _ Buffalo receiver Eric Moulds saw the small scrum of reporters forming in his path. It would have been easy for him to blow them off.

  Eric Moulds
Eric Moulds finished second in the NFL in receiving yards last season with 1,312.
He burned NFL defensive backs for a Bills' season record of 1,368 yards and earned a Pro Bowl invitation last year. He led the AFC in receiving yards and topped the league in yards per catch.

But trouble has a habit of catching up with even the swiftest receiver. In the offseason Moulds was ordered to serve a 30-day jail term for contempt of court for delaying child support payments.

Moulds, who is appealing the sentence, paid all of the back child support and complied with the other arrangements a few days before he was to go to court over the matter. He didn't dodge the issue at training camp Friday.

"There were some things that happened in my past that came back against me," Moulds said. "It's something I have to learn from."

Last year Moulds learned how to be a success in the NFL.

"Right now I'm trying to stay healthy and get ready for another long season," said Moulds, the No. 1 draft pick in 1996 who caught 67 passes and averaged 20.4 yards per catch last year after two disappointing seasons. "We have a few new wrinkles in and it will be interesting to see how far we go this year."

Moulds had 49 catches for 573 yards in 1996-97. "People were saying this guy is a first-round pick and maybe he's a bust or something," said Moulds, who set an NFL playoff-game record with 240 receiving yards in a 24-17 loss to Miami.

His 1998 yardage total broke Andre Reed's team record of 1,312, set in 1989, was tops in the AFC and was second only to Green Bay wideout Antonio Freeman's 1,424.

No. 1 pick Antoine Winfield of Ohio State, a quick and hard-hitting defensive back, knew he was up against the best when he lined up against Moulds.

"He's quick off the ball, he's strong," Winfield said. "He's the real deal. In order to get better I have to go against him and Andre Reed."

Moulds had a hot start last season but really caught fire at Carolina on Oct. 25, when he hauled in five passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder.

Doug Flutie, who was 18-of-22 against the Panthers that day as part of a breakthrough season of his own, learned to look for Moulds.

"For a quarterback it's important to have a guy you know is going to be there when you need him," said Flutie, also a Pro Bowler last year. "Eric was my security blanket, and I'm going to count on him even more this year."

Moulds made a believer out of himself Nov. 29 with 177 receiving yards against New England and Ty Law, a Pro Bowl cornerback who led the NFL with nine interceptions.

"I played against Ty Law and had a pretty good game against him, and I started wondering how good I could really be," Moulds said.

He found out the next week at Cincinnati with a season-high 196 yards and two touchdowns on six catches, an average of 32.7 yards per catch. Moulds had another 100-yard day against the New York Jets in December.

"The last five games he was probably close to the best receiver in the league, the best I saw for sure," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said.

"He made a whole bunch of extraordinary catches, but finishing it was the biggest thing," Bills receiver Kevin Williams said. "This year he's even stronger, he's even faster and he wants to do it. Man-on-man coverage, he's on another level. They're going to have to do some different things to contain him. I can't wait."

Moulds still has his legal matter hanging over him and says the appeal process could take up to two years.

"The main thing is just waiting and not knowing what's going to happen," he said. "It's just something that I have to go through, and a lot of guys, like Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas, told me to just concentrate on football and then whatever happens after that, just deal with it."