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Patriots send Moss to Vikings for third-rounder

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 7, 2010

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Randy Moss was right: This was his last year with the Patriots. What he didn’t know was that his last game in a New England uniform would be in Week 4.

Yesterday, the Patriots traded their big-play receiver and headline-maker to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2011 third-round draft pick. The Patriots also gave up a seventh-round pick in 2012, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The trade weakens the Patriots offense but gives them two picks in each of the first four rounds of next spring’s draft.

Moss returns to where his career began, rejoining the team that drafted him in the first round in 1998 out of Marshall. Moss played seven seasons with the Vikings. His arrival provided a “sizzle and spark’’ that put fans in the seats, according to former Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who is now an ESPN analyst. Moss’s return is equally anticipated for a team now led by veteran quar terback Brett Favre.

“This is an exciting move, I think everybody feels that in the locker room,’’ said Favre on the Vikings website. “It’s rare you get to play with a future Hall of Famer and get to appreciate their talents up close.

“Randy Moss is a great player and his career speaks for itself. I’ve admired him from a distance for a long time and you can’t help but be impressed by the guy. I’ve seen him light our teams up plenty of times in those Vikings-Packers games and I’m excited to be on the same team now.’’

While fans in Minnesota are celebrating Moss’s return, his last day as a Patriot cleared the path for numerous stories to emerge about how the receiver’s attitude was affecting the team.

Moss and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien, who calls the offensive plays, struggled to see eye to eye, according to a team source. Moss and O’Brien had a heated exchange at halftime of Monday night’s game in Miami, according to ESPNBoston.com. The only time Moss was targeted in that game was on a fake spike near the goal line, a pass that he could not pull down.

Moss ended the game without a catch for the first time since he joined the Patriots.

There wasn’t much official reaction from the Patriots yesterday. The team is in its bye week and has been off since beating the Dolphins. The players will return to practice today, but coach Bill Belichick will not hold a news conference this week. Instead, he released a statement yesterday.

“Over the course of the past several months, I have spoken with Randy and his representative about Randy’s place on our team and his future in football,’’ Belichick said. “Consistent with my dealings with Randy from the day we acquired him through our conversation this morning, it has been honest, thoughtful, and with great mutual respect.

“While I will keep private the details of internal conversations with players and staff, suffice it to say that many things were taken into consideration before making the trade.

“In this business, there are complex and often difficult decisions, but it is my responsibility to make them based on what I feel is best for our football team, in both the short term and long term. I am grateful for the opportunity to have coached Randy Moss and aside from facing him as an opponent, I wish him the very best for the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.’’

In 2007, the Patriots traded a fourth-round pick to the Oakland Raiders to acquire Moss. The union revitalized Moss’s career and helped the Patriots build a prolific offense that set numerous records as they compiled a 16-0 regular-season record. Moss hauled in an NFL-record 23 touchdown receptions that season and was rewarded with a three-year, $27 million contract at the end of the season.

That contract entered its final season this year, a fact Moss didn’t have a problem letting everyone know. Just before the season opener, Moss told a reporter he did not feel wanted by the team and had not been approached about an extension.

He expanded on those thoughts moments after the Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener. Moss talked for more than 15 minutes about his future and his relationship with the Patriots. He said he was happy in New England and would like to return.

“I want to be here as a Patriot, I love being here, but I just think, from a business standpoint, this probably will be my last year here as a Patriot,’’ Moss said. “And I’m not retiring, I’m still going to play some football. So I just wanted to get that off my chest, and let you all understand, man, because this is a business.’’

The business part of the deal showed itself yesterday. But Moss, 33, has said he is not ready for his career to end. He had nine catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns this year. In the last three years, he has 50 touchdowns, the most of any NFL player. He is only the second player to have 150 touchdown receptions, and in his career, he has caught 935 passes for 14,604 yards and 151 touchdowns.

On Oct. 31, Moss will return to Gillette Stadium as a member of the Vikings.

“We feel very good about the opportunity to add a player of Randy Moss’s caliber to this football team,’’ Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “He is a tremendous competitor and was an integral member of the Vikings organization from 1998-2004.

“Once again, ownership was completely supportive of our efforts to add a valuable football player to our team. I know the entire organization is thrilled to welcome him back to the Twin Cities and look forward to his contributions.’’

Shalise Manza-Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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