Moss to Vikings fans: Get out your #84 jerseysby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Eden Prairie, Minn. — Randy Moss has returned to where it all began.
Wearing his familiar purple No. 84 jersey, the star receiver practiced with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday a day after he was acquired from the New England 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 sidelines, 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. "Do I hope there's still some magic left with me? With him? With this team? Absolutely. How could you not want to play with this guy?"
Moss, one of the NFL's all-time leading wide receivers, holds the NFL single-season record for touchdown receptions. He was the league's offensive rookie of the year when he first joined the Vikings in 1998 as a long-shot draft pick.
But his promise never gave the team its long-awaited Super Bowl title. Amid behind-the-scenes angst, the team dealt him to Oakland in 2005, and he was passed along by the Raiders, too, two years later. The New England Patriots traded him to the Vikings for a third-round draft pick -- thought by many to be a bargain.
Moss said he hoped his return to Minnesota would help him redeem his initial promise.
"Leaving here, there was still a bad taste in my mouth," he said. "Over the last 24 hours, I still feel obligated to try to make this thing happen, because when nobody wanted to give me a chance, the Minnesota Vikings still did give me a chance."
The Vikings hope for a little redemption, too. They hope Randy Moss is the missing ingredient that gets the team's passing game back on track -- that he'll be the star receiver they've been missing since Sidney Rice suffered a hip injury that will keep him on the sidelines through midseason.
Favre has thrown six interceptions in the first three games -- just one fewer than he did over the whole 2009 season.
Moss brings the team his self-described freakish ability to snatch seemingly uncatchable footballs -- although he did concede that at 33, he's not the young phenomenon he was 10 years ago.
"Of course I've lost a step. But me losing a step, I'm still one of the fastest guys in the league," he said.
Besides his football catching skills, Moss also brings baggage back to the Vikings.
On the field, his work ethic has been questioned. Moss left the field early in a 2004 loss, irritating his teammates. And he once was quoted as saying "I play when I want to play."
He drew attention off the field as well. He was arrested in 2002 after pushing over a traffic control officer in Minneapolis with his vehicle. Police also found marijuana in his car. And in 2005, after he'd left the Vikings, he told HBO that he might still be an active marijuana smoker.
Moss entered this season with the Patriots 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.
"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."
His career in Boston did go mostly without controversy, but ESPN reports that Moss got into what other players called a "heated exchange" with Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien in the locker room during Monday night's game against Miami, just hours before he was traded away.
Moss said he wasn't going to discuss his departure from the Patriots, and simply looked forward to fitting in with a new team.
Coach Brad Childress said Moss is already a boost to the team, before even taking the field.
"It gives you a little bit of enthusiasm," said Childress. "Probably everybody on the football team felt that, and as I said before, he's a good piece of the puzzle."
The Vikings are hoping Moss can find enough motivation to return to his dominant form and revive a stagnant passing offense.
"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."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
- All Things Considered, 10/07/2010, 5:50 p.m.