|Minnesota Vikings new wide receiver Randy Moss catches a pass during NFL football practice, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 in Eden Prairie, Minn. Moss was traded Wednesday to the Vikings by the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)|
Moss 'back home' with Vikings
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—To hear Randy Moss tell it, this week's blockbuster trade that moved him from New England to Minnesota didn't just bring him back to the place where he started his NFL career.
The headline grabbing move wasn't about Moss simply coming back to a team that traded him five years ago.
More important than anything for Moss, and thus for the Vikings, is that the star receiver feels like he is home.
"I'm very fortunate to be back home where it all started," said Moss, the West Virginia native who referred to Minnesota as home seven times Thursday. "It's been a hectic last 48 hours. I didn't really know what to expect. I'm back home."
Wearing that familiar purple No. 84 on his back, Moss practiced with the Vikings a day after he was acquired from the Patriots in a trade his new team hopes will get them right back in the Super Bowl conversation.
"To all the Vikings fans that are coming to the Metrodome, pull your 84 jerseys out, man," Moss said. "I think this is going to be a fun ride."
With owners Zygi and Mark Wilf watching from the sideline, Moss caught passes from Brett Favre and talked to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as he prepares for Monday night's road game against the New York Jets.
"Who woulda ever thunk it?" Favre asked.
Moss spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota, emerging as the best deep threat in the league for one of the most potent offenses ever assembled. He was traded to Oakland in 2005 and spent the last three seasons with the Patriots before being dealt back to the Vikings on Wednesday.
"The people that I meet on the regular outside the state of Minnesota, all they know is me being in the purple 84," Moss said, adding later: "I still have a lot of love for the Minnesota Vikings, man. Just luckily I did get traded here. For what reasons, I still don't know to this day. But I am back."
No matter where he has played -- in college, with the Vikings after he slid down the draft board in 1998 or in New England after many thought he was washed up -- Moss has always played his best with a chip on his shoulder.
That's what the Vikings are hoping to see again.
"I think there's always that," coach Brad Childress said after the trade was announced. "The great thing about this business is you have to do it every week. For anybody that is saying anything bad about Randy Moss, he gets a chance to show them wrong. That's never a bad motivator."
Moss became a star in college, when he ended up at Marshall after off-the-field issues caused Notre Dame to rescind a scholarship offer. He had two brilliant seasons with the Thundering Herd, but he fell to the Vikings at No. 21 in the 1998 draft because of concerns about his character.
Moss unleashed all that pent up frustration in his first season, scoring 17 touchdowns and averaging more than 19 yards per catch to help the Vikings reach the NFC title game. In his seven seasons with the Vikings, Moss caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns.
But the Vikings eventually grew tired of Moss's occasionally petulant behavior, and shipped him to the Raiders in 2005. A few nagging injuries and Oakland's struggles on the field combined to make his two years there largely unproductive.
"I still feel obligated to make this thing happen because when nobody wanted to give me a chance the Minnesota Vikings did give me a chance," Moss said.
He brushed aside one question about his controversial past in Minnesota, then took a playful jab at the infamous "Love Boat" scandal in 2005, the year after he was traded.
"Yeah, I did have a few mix-ups here, but who didn't?" he asked. "What if I'd have been on that boat? There really would have been some problems."
Moss said he was "very depressed" when he was traded from Minnesota. "Me going to Oakland and not winning games put me in a deeper depression," he said.
His first year in New England ranks among the very best from any receiver in NFL history, with 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a record 23 touchdowns to help the Patriots reach the Super Bowl. He caught 50 touchdowns in 52 games with the Patriots.
Moss entered this season in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract and made no secret of his desire for a new deal. He complained about not feeling wanted in New England and said that he expected this year to be his last with the Patriots.
After going without a catch Monday night against the Dolphins, Moss was traded to the Vikings, who play at New England on Oct. 31.
"Did I want to get traded out of New England? I don't know what the answer is," Moss said. "All I can say is there's no other place I'd rather get traded to besides Minnesota."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick strongly denied reports of a rift between Moss and the organization.
"There was never any incident or discipline problem with Randy," coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. "There never has been one with me in four years. And it certainly wasn't about contract and money."
Now the Vikings are hoping Moss can find enough motivation to return to his dominant form and revive a stagnant passing offense.
Favre has long hoped to play with Moss, and now he has the deep threat he's been missing since Sidney Rice had hip surgery in August.
"Randy comes in, we're just going to throw it up and there's 11 guys on him and you just throw it up to him. There may be times when that's the case," Favre said with a giddy smile before catching himself. "I was just joking. Ten guys, maybe."