Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Updated: October 7, 10:15 AM ET
Randy Moss returning to Minnesota
ESPN.com news services
MINNEAPOLIS -- When Randy Moss first came to Minnesota 12 years ago, he electrified a stagnant franchise and immediately turned the Vikings into Super Bowl contenders.
Now the Vikings need him to do it again.
The New England Patriots traded the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Wednesday, giving Moss the exit he expected all along and sending him back to the place where he became a superstar.
"He can still go downtown and get the football, which is a stand-alone factor," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He could sprain his toe here sometime coming up, and you could say that he's 33, it's old age. But there's always risk reward. I don't necessarily see this as boom or bust. I think he's got some more football in him."
The Vikings will send a third-round 2011 draft pick to the Patriots in return for Moss and New England's seventh-round draft pick in 2012, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Vikings play at New York on Monday night, and Childress said without hesitation that Moss would be in uniform against the Jets -- his old purple No. 84.
"Man, we wish this would have happened a week later," Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson said.
The drama is sure to be high around here all month. Check out Minnesota's last two games in October: at rival Green Bay, and then at New England.
A source close to Moss told ESPN NFL senior analyst Chris Mortensen that Patriots coach Bill Belichick informed Moss of the trade Wednesday morning by telephone. The source said the conversation was cordial, with both men expressing appreciation for the time they spent together.
"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," Belichick said in a statement. "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."
Moss was said to be "excited" about returning to his original team with Brett Favre at quarterback, the source said.
The Vikings didn't practice on Wednesday. Moss is expected to join the team on Thursday and talk with reporters afterward.
"We've just been missing something, and I think he can give us another threat down the field," running back Adrian Peterson said on the team's website.
Moss' agent, Joel Segal, said the Vikings have not contacted him about a long-term deal, so Moss joins a long list of Vikings in the final year of their contracts. Among them are wide receiver Sidney Rice, linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway, and defensive end Ray Edwards.
It is expected that Moss' camp and the Vikings will have a contract discussion later Wednesday, the source told Schefter.
Moss will go from catching passes from Tom Brady in New England to hauling in Favre's throws with the Vikings, who desperately needed a downfield threat after Pro Bowl receiver Rice had hip surgery in August.
"This is an exciting move, I think everybody feels that in the locker room," Favre said on the team's 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."
The Vikings began the year with championship aspirations after reaching the NFC title game in January. But they have lost two of their first three and Favre's passing game has struggled to get off the ground, with Rice and Percy Harvin both struggling with injuries.
Childress insisted the acquisition of Moss isn't a sign that Rice's recovery has slowed. Rice said recently he hopes to be off his crutches next week.
The Vikings failed to trade for disgruntled Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson earlier this season, and Favre has said he would like to see another big receiver added to the roster. The Vikings and owner Zygi Wilf delivered in a big way Wednesday.
Favre openly campaigned for the Packers to acquire Moss when Oakland put him on the trade block in 2007. The Patriots ultimately ended up parting with a fourth-round pick to pry Moss away, and Favre privately fumed at the swing and miss by the Green Bay front office.
The Packers shipped Favre to the Jets in 2008 and he signed with the Vikings in 2009.
Now, Favre and Moss have finally been united.
Childress, though, denied on Wednesday that Favre lobbied for the move. The coach said Wilf gave his blessing on Monday.
"I don't think any of us thought this guy was going to be available," Childress said.
Moss was a first-round pick of the Vikings in 1998 and spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota, where he emerged as one of the most exciting playmakers in the league. He was traded to Oakland in 2005, where he languished for two years before being revitalized in New England.
Moss is in the final season of a three-year, $27 million contract and has said several times that he expected 2010 to be his last season with the Patriots. He did not have a catch in a 41-14 win Monday night against Miami.
"When you have done so much and put so much work in, it kind of feels like I am not wanted," Moss said before the season began Sept. 6. "I am taking that in stride and playing my final year out and whatever the future holds is what it holds, but it is kind of a bad feeling -- feeling not wanted. It is not like my production has gone down."
Moss made similar comments during a news conference following the Patriots' season-opening victory against the Bengals. The next day, he apologized for the timing of his remarks and said he loves playing in New England.
But the Boston Herald, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that Moss wanted out of New England after a Week 1 win Sept. 12, telling his agent to ask the Patriots to trade him.
In addition, Moss and Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien were involved in a heated exchange at halftime of the team's victory Monday, player sources told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. One player described it as an "outburst."
Moss and Belichick did not speak or even see each other on Tuesday, a league source told Schefter.
Brady has been an unabashed fan of Moss since the receiver arrived in New England prior to the 2007 season. The two hooked up for 23 of Brady's record 50 touchdown passes that season. Last season, Brady came to Moss' defense when a Carolina Panthers defensive back questioned Moss' effort. And after Moss said he didn't feel wanted by the Patriots a few weeks ago, Brady again came out strong in support of Moss.
"Randy is important, was important, will be important, especially from my standpoint as a quarterback," Brady said during an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "I love Randy and I'd love to play with him for a long time."
Moss caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns in his first stint with Minnesota, bursting onto the scene in 1998 by catching deep throws from Randall Cunningham and helping a record-breaking offense reach the NFC title game.
The entertaining style of football that he brought with him started a string of sellouts at the Metrodome that is still going 13 years later. His purple No. 84 jersey can still be seen regularly on the backs of fans, six years after he was traded to Oakland.
But his time in Minnesota wasn't always smooth.
There was the time he bumped a traffic cop with his car in downtown Minneapolis, left the field early during a game in Washington, and several other occasions where he was fined for antics on the field, prompting the Vikings to trade him to the Raiders in 2005.
He hasn't had any of those types of problems in New England, but there were signs that his time with the Patriots was coming to an end. Monday night was the first time he has not caught a pass for the Patriots since joining them in 2007.
As a result of the trade, the Patriots now have two picks in each of the first four rounds of the 2011 draft -- their own picks and a first-round pick from Oakland, a second-round pick from Carolina, the third-round pick from Minnesota and a fourth-rounder from Denver.
Childress said Moss has a clean slate in Minnesota.
"I'm just satisfied to judge him, not backward, but judge him going forward and what he does with us here," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.