A week ago today, the football world was abuzz with the growing confirmation that Randy Moss would be returning to the Vikings. For most fans, it was unreal. It was a similar sensation for Moss, who, it can be argued, was the most exciting Viking of all time. The organization has had some greats through their history that were beloved by the fans – Bud Grant, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel and Adrian Peterson to name a few – but it can be argued that there was no more of a vocal love affair between fans and a player than there was in the Metrodome for Moss.
Moss said his return to the Vikings won't really be official until he returns to play in front of the home fans, where, if the Vikings organization wants to help illustrate the point, could make a point to return to introducing the starters individually prior to the game. It would be a surreal moment, introducing Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre and Moss back-to-back-to-back.
On Wednesday, Moss was asked to describe his emotions on making his return to a place where he made so many memories for Vikings fans. It would appear the love goes both ways.
"Very exciting," Moss said of his pending Metrodome return. "I don't know whether to be nervous or what. I know it's early in the week, I think every day I'm just going to think about how it's going to be. I don't know what has changed in the Metrodome. I'm just looking at coming in there and energizing that Metrodome. Right now, I'm energetic. By the time game time comes, I'll probably have a little nervousness."
When players know their tenure with a team is coming to an end or their career is at its final stages, they can soak in the moment and share it with fans. Cris Carter did when he returned to the Metrodome with Miami, but Moss was traded while still at the peak of his earning power and reminded people that is wasn't his choice to leave the Vikings to go to Oakland.
"It's a business," Moss said of the NFL. "Time and time and time again I always talk about the business side of football. I think people really don't understand that, on the business side of football, you can be here today and gone tomorrow."
Moss said he didn't see his trade coming and, while the wounds have healed, there is still some resentment because he fell in love with the Twin Cities. He considered Minnesota home and didn't sell his house until a couple of years ago. He said that, while he disagreed with how his first tenure here ended, he always thought of the fans and his teammates fondly, because, like him, they had nothing to do with the decision to trade him to the Raiders in the spring of 2005.
"I've always had love for state of Minnesota and this organization," Moss said. "But I was kind of bitter the way things ended. At the same time, you let bygones be bygones. You forgive, but never forget. Hopefully, whatever I supposedly done here to get me thrown out of the state of Minnesota, people can forgive me. I've forgiven the organization for kicking me to the curb. I'm back here to make up for that."
Moss said he hasn't had much of an opportunity to re-acquaint himself with the Twin Cities. He's been something of a hermit, spending extra time at Winter Park and essentially spending his days either heading from home to the team facility of vice versa.
"I ain't been out much," Moss said. "I've been trying to hide. I've been here studying about an hour after everybody leaves. I'm taking care of my body, (wide receivers) Coach (George Stewart) is going over with me mistakes I made in practice and then taking my book home and studying – making sure I know what I'm doing. I say time and time again how fast this game is and how physical it is. I don't want the coaches and this organization to put me out there if I don't know what I'm doing. There are 10 others guys out there that have to believe in all 11 guys together. If I don't know what I'm doing, I can get one of those other guys really seriously hurt."
Moss said that the transition from the Patriots to the Vikings has been more difficult than his other changes of venue. When he went to Oakland and later to New England, he has the offseason minicamps and training camp to get his assignments down. Being traded a month into the regular season, Moss said catching up to the terminology of the Vikings offense and his role is what he is trying to learn. He was off the field late in the game because he didn't know the play-call in the no-huddle hurry-up offense and said he is looking to make up that learning curve as quickly as possible.
"It's been hard, but I think at the end of the day, football is football," Moss said. "The route combinations and the concepts are similar everywhere you go. The terminology and how they work things is something I have to get used to. That's why I'm studying so hard, so when I hear the quarterback say the play, I can break the huddle right away instead of sitting there looking in his eyes and him telling me what to do. I don't want play clocks to be down so we have to rush things. Put it like this: If I don't know what I'm doing, I don't want to be out there. That's why I'm putting a point of emphasis on making sure I'm studying, making sure I'm taking care of my body, eating right, so whenever I'm out there, I'm giving it everything I've got."
He said part of his motivation is that he can finally be united with Brett Favre, a hero and NFL colleague of Moss' for years. They forged a mutual respect as rivals in Minnesota and Green Bay and Moss said that he has the utmost respect for his new teammate.
"Brett Favre is legendary," Moss said. "He says complimentary things about me. Brett Favre has seven years more (in the NFL) than I do. I've always been a fan of Brett Favre's. He loves the game of football. When Brett came from Atlanta to Green Bay, a lot of people counted him out. I call him an Original Gunslinger. There's not a lot of Original Gunslingers in this league. (Green Bay QB Aaron) Rodgers is a gunslinger. Favre is a gunslinger. Favre has been a gunslinger for 20 years and I commend him for that. The best thing that I can do now that we're teammates is be out there for him any play. Luckily, (Monday) night he was throwing balls up and I couldn't come down with the catches for him. That's something that has played in my head over and over and I still think about to this day. I want to be there for him. I know how much he loves this game and I love the game. If he believes in his receivers, he'll throw it up. We all know that. When he throws it up to me, I want to be there for him."
It seems only fitting the Vikings will play Dallas when Moss makes his Metrodome return. In four games against Dallas as a Viking, he caught 20 passes for 398 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns – never scoring less than two in a game. When asked why he plays so well against Dallas, it became obvious Moss still carries a grudge.
"Go back to the 1998 draft and that'll be your answer," Moss said.
Moss scoring touchdowns at the Metrodome is nothing new and he said he will be looking for one fan in particular – a burly, face-painted, heavily-tattooed man with big arms that goes by the nickname "Cheese Free" and made a practice of catching Moss as he perfected his own take on the Lambeau Leap. He said he wants to hear that roar again and, if it works out, he will find a landing spot among the fans who energized him for years.
"It's going to be weird for me to go back in the Metrodome," Moss said. "I want to jump in the Vikings' arm one time. I don't know if I will get to do that this week, but if I score on his side of the end zone, you best believe I'm going be up in those stands."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.
Moss energetic, nervous for Dome debut
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