Brad Childress knows the risks, so much so that he feigned a lack of knowledge about one of Randy Moss' most infamous Minnesota quotes: "I play when I want to play."
Childress joked that he had never heard that quote, but the Vikings coach clearly knows all about Randy Moss' past – bumping a Minneapolis traffic cop, squirting refs, a faux mooning at Lambeau Field.
Will Childress have to employ his psychology degree and learn how to manage Moss' personality – if that's even possible?
"I think he's an emotional guy, part of what makes him a good football player," Childress said. "Do people always agree when you have 53 players and 20 coaches? Not always.
"I think it was a lesson for me at a point in my life to be able to appropriately question authority, which I didn't always do. Temperatures can rise from time to time, when you're playing an emotional game, whether it be on the sideline, whether it be in the locker room. It still comes down to communicating. And different people communicate different ways."
Childress said he did his "due diligence" on Moss before completing the trade to acquire him Wednesday for a third-round draft pick, but he also admitted that he never spoke to Patriots coach Bill Belichick personally. He didn't have to.
The Vikings still have eight players – TEs Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan, T Bryant McKinnie, G Anthony Herrera, DT Kevin Williams, LB E.J. Henderson, CB Antoine Winfield and long snapper Cullen Loeffler – who were with the Vikings before Moss was traded to Oakland in 2005.
But Childress figures there is an X-factor in Moss being accepted, no matter how much familiarity ex-teammates have with him.
"Good players are generally accepted very well in the locker room," Childress said. "I just saw Antoine Winfield in there. Obviously there is six or seven guys that played with him. They're kind of tickled to death. I know Antoine's got a grin from ear to ear."
Cris Carter knows Moss from the time he first entered the league in 1998. When Moss was a first-round draft pick, Carter was there to act as a mentor. They played together for four years (1998-2001), and Carter still has glowing reviews of Moss – talking about his talents on the field and his presence off the field.
No matter how Moss comes across to the media or fans, Carter said he is a different person in the confines of a locker room.
"Man, we enjoyed Randy. The teammates, the locker room, we enjoyed it," Carter said Wednesday. "It helped my career. That's the funnest (four years) I ever had. Randy brings that – I don't care what kind of interview he does tomorrow or tonight. When he gets in the locker room he's different and the guys like him."
The most interesting – and public – dynamic in the reunion between Moss and Minnesota will happen on the field. How will he mesh with QB Brett Favre, who lobbied for the Green Bay Packers to trade for Moss in 2007 and sign him as a free agent in 2008 – both unsuccessful campaigns that helped lead to Favre's departure from Green Bay before the 2008 season.
Both Moss and Favre can be strong-willed players, and Childress has been accused of being too inflexible by past quarterbacks in Minnesota. So before Moss even arrived in Minnesota Wednesday, Childress was asked about the dynamic between him, Moss and Favre and how the players might elect to do their own thing on the field.
"We're already talking about a mutiny?" Childress replied with a grin. "… Am I crazy enough to think that doesn't happen? I think it probably happened with Tom (Brady) and him, too. … That happens. It's about trying to get behind somebody, and if he can, more power to him."
But in the NFL, talent can trump troublesome natures. Coaches are more willing to take risks with superstars, especially when expectations are high and offensive-minded coaches see a stale passing attack that might be cured with that one quick elixir.
"I just know this: (Moss) can still go downtown and get the football, which is a stand-alone factor. It stands out," Childress said. "And he's done that this year, a couple of highlight-reel deals now."
Carter, who believes Moss can still run the 40-yard dash in the 4.3-second range, put it more succinctly.
"Randy Moss is a nightmare for defenses and he still has the speed … actually he has taken better care of his body now in the last three years than the five years that I played with him because he was just young then," Carter said. "I think that Randy is coming in healthy and that right there always helps him to maintain his tremendous speed."
And then there is Childress looking for an edge to motivate further. Moss is seeking an extension and Carter believes that can be a motivation, and Childress probably won't mind playing up the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that Moss brings back to Minnesota.
"For anybody that's saying anything bad about Randy Moss, he gets a chance to show them wrong. That's never bad," Childress said.
Moss came into the league looking to show up the 19 teams that passed on him in the draft – Cincinnati did it twice, opting for LBs Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons – in 1998.
All Moss did that season was help the Vikings to the NFL scoring record at the time with 556 points with his 17 touchdowns as a rookie. Ten years later, he was part of the Patriots team that set the current bar at 589 points, with Moss contributing 23 touchdowns.
Two of his biggest games as a rookie were when the lights were shining brightest. He hauled in five catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns in his first action against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on a Monday night outing. Seven games later, in another nationally televised game on Thanksgiving Day, Moss helped shoot down the Dallas Cowboys, 46-36, with three catches – all touchdowns – for 163 yards.
Last Monday night, Moss was only thrown to once and held without a catch. We'll find out this Monday night – yes, he's making back-to-back Monday night appearances with two separate teams – against the Jets in New York whether he can rekindle that Moss magic from his rookie season.
"Randy scores touchdowns and fans love that," Carter said. "Prime time game, Randy goes big in the prime-time games."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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