This week is being heralded as one of the watershed moments in Vikings history. Randy Moss is returning to the Metrodome – the prodigal son coming home to entertain his 60,000-member extended family on weekends. An icon. A legend. A Hall of Famer. But, if not for what Moss still considers a personal and professional slap in the face, he could be having the same career as a member of the venerable Dallas Cowboys.
Moss did a conference call with the Dallas media Tuesday and he told the reporters who were wondering if he was still angry with Dallas owner Jerry Jones for not taking, that he's past it, but not necessarily over it.
"Am I still mad at the Cowboys?" Moss asked. "I always carry a certain chip on my shoulder for the Cowboys. Not as much, but I'm still ready to play some football. In a certain sense, yes, but you let bygones be bygones, but, at the same time, I've still got that chip."
The problem is in the background. Jones cancelled what was supposed to be part of Moss' pre-draft visit to Dallas in 1998. Jones commissioned a town car to take to Moss to the home of flamboyant Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders. It was Prime Time recruiting at its finest. Deion told Moss how much Dallas wanted him to be a part of the organization and he believed that, if he somehow made it to Dallas as the eighth pick of the first round, the Cowboys would welcome him with open arms.
They didn't … and Jones has regretted it ever since. When the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant in the first round in April's draft, Jones recalled 12 years earlier when he passed on a Hall of Fame wide receiver because of concerns of off-field red flags. It was a tough decision from the Cowboys' war room. It was devastating for Moss and his family. If you want to build a grudge, there's one way to get on the express lane to anger – upset a man's mother.
Dallas did and Randy has never forgotten. When asked why he has maintained such an animosity toward the Cowboys over the years, he couldn't have explained it any more succinctly. The other 18 teams that passed on him (Cincinnati did the honors twice) didn't make his mom cry. The Cowboys organization did. That stain doesn't wash out easy.
"I think it's the way (things happened) on draft day," Moss said. "My expectations of how I thought the draft was going to go and the feelings and the facial expressions on my mom's face. My mom is not really big into sports – she never has and I don't think she ever will. She really had her hopes set on me going to Dallas, because all of the conversations when I came back from visiting Dallas. I told my mom I might be a Cowboy, so she had her mind set on Dallas, just as I did. So, when they didn't pick me, I was kind of more depressed, because she was depressed and I took that to heart. That my mom didn't really care too much about the 'Boys and just seeing her facial expression and how she looked, I really took that to heart. I told myself any time I play the Dallas Cowboys, I'm never going to forget that look."
Moss said his anger toward Dallas has eased over time, even though it has never shown on the field – in four games as a Viking against the Cowboys, he caught 20 passes for 398 yards and nine touchdowns. Extrapolated over a full season of playing the Cowboys as a member of the Vikings, it would equate to 80 catches for 1,592 yards and 36 touchdowns. Not too shabby.
Moss was asked if there was a moment when he found peace with his blood feud with Dallas. He said he doesn't hold the same level of ill-well but just because the pain is gone, doesn't mean it's forgotten.
"I really don't know," Moss said of his forgiveness of the Cowboys for the draft-day snub. "I think over time, I've grown. I've matured. I think my family life and my children and the good people around me have helped me mature mentally – being able to look past that stuff. When I first came into the league, it was like I was very disappointed and had a lot of anger on my mind and on my chest. That chip on my shoulder was a lot of anger."
Moss said that, in a sense, he has paid back all of the teams that passed on him in the 1998 draft. After more than a dozen years in the NFL playing at a level that everyone who has followed has used as the benchmark of excellence, he doesn't feel obligated to make it even more obvious what Jones proved when he drafted Dez Bryant – he had the chance to draft a player that would still be a Cowboy and in the Ring of Honor, but he messed it up. Moss holds his head high with that knowledge and is good with it. The vengeance factor isn't gone. It's just pointless after all this time.
"Now I feel comfortable just going out there and playing ball, because I think the NFL knows what they're getting from Randy Moss. The accomplishments I've received over the time I've been in the league, they know about me. A lot of that anger and animosity has left, but still, at the same time, I've put those words in into to the term ‘compete.' I still like to go out there and compete, but I like to do it at a high level."
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.
Dallas' draft-day snub still bites at Moss
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