In recent weeks, Vikings receiver Cris Carter has tried to distance himself from the perception that he has been Randy Moss' teacher/role model during the three-plus seasons the two have spent together in Minnesota.
But during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters Wednesday, Carter sounded like a disappointed parent when he talked about the "I play when I want to play" comments Moss has made this season.
"When you've been playing as long as I have, and I think that (with) my approach to the game, it bothers you in a sense that … for me, it's more personal," Carter said. "To me, I ask the question ‘Is that what you taught him, or did you teach him something else?' So to me, I take personal offense to it because that's not the way you approach the game. You play when they make the schedule. When the commissioner gives the schedule, that's when you play."
Carter did try to cover for Moss a little bit.
"I know what Randy was trying to say, and I know some of it got misconstrued. Some of it, did he mean it? Yes, but some of it got misconstrued. It's not totally taken out of context, but some of it, the part of the question was asked in a sense of ‘Does Coach Green get you motivated? Do you like playing on ‘Monday Night Football,' or do you like playing the Packers, does Cris have to get on you to make you play?' He said, ‘No, I play when I want to play.'
"Then he came back the following week with something that said he meant what he said. So I couldn't even cover up for it. I think you take it personal, and his teammates, we look at it, and probably 99 percent of the players in the league have less ability than Randy has. That's just realistic. He's that kind of athlete, a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. For the rest of us, we know that we have to give our absolute best to even perform in the NFL, and we know it's not easy."
Among the latest to weigh in on Moss' comments was Packers receiver Antonio Freeman, whose team faces the Vikings on Sunday.
Freeman, of course, has not always been the model NFL player himself, but that didn't stop him from giving his opinion when asked if it was fair to say a receiver isn't going to do the same things on a passing play that they would on a running play.
"That's no excuse," Freeman said. "I mean, sometimes it is a receiver's block downfield that springs the running back. I can look at several plays this year where my block downfield meant just as much as the right guard's block. A couple times this year I was the reason that Ahman (Green) ran 80 yards as opposed to 20.
"My blocking downfield or any of our receivers' blocking downfield for that matter. Blocking is just as important as pass receiving even though as a receiver you don't think that, but when those backs hit the hole and they get into the secondary and your block is the last and deciding block, it would be good to be able to make that block."
One of the Packers defending Moss was former Vikings cornerback Keith Thibodeaux, who has spent much of the season with Green Bay since being let go by Minnesota in October.
"Nothing Randy says surprises me," he told the Green Bay News-Chronicle. "I know Randy real well, and I think he's a good guy. He's one of the top receivers in the league. He made comments that he doesn't play, but when it comes down to him playing, he plays real hard."
One man's opinion
While most believe Carter played his final home game in the Vikings' 33-3 loss to Jacksonville in Week 15, coach Dennis Green thinks otherwise.
"I don't think it will be Cris' last game (at the Metrodome)," Green said. "I think he's a tremendous player. I think Cris Carter will probably be playing for the Vikings in the future. But again, as a great competitor, I think that is something he has always done, 15 years in the league, 12 years here with the Vikings.
"I think he has always been a guy that goes on the field and gives 100 percent, has a great passion for the game. I think the fans enjoy that passion. It's obvious they do, and I think he can still play the game."
Carter on Green
Among the topics Carter touched on was his once very strong relationship with Green, which according to many has taken a turn for the worse this season.
"I think it has been a very tough year on myself and Coach Green," Carter said. "Has the relationship changed drastically? I don't think drastically, but I think there are certain things in there. I realize that he is under a lot more pressure than I'm under, and his decision-making, which has been questioned so much and the team is not playing well, so ultimately that falls back on him. So there are a lot of things that are going on that I do understand.
"It has not been a season where we've been as close as we have been in the past, but are we going back and forth with each other, do we have arguments? No, it's nothing like that. I realize the bigger picture, and he has to be held accountable for the bigger picture through the organization because he is the key figure in the organization. So he's going through a lot of different things that, for me, I don't have to go through."
Carter likes Packers
Carter, a free-agent-to-be, told Wisconsin reporters on a conference call that he has imagined himself signing with the Packers after this season.
"I've thought about it," Carter said. "I'm still in thought.
"Even though it sounds funny and it sounds unrealistic — and it sounds realistic in a sense — I don't want to talk about it because people would get offended. And if (playing for the Packers) is part of the equation — which I don't know — it would really ruffle some people or rub people the wrong way right now, and I don't want to do that."
So would the Packers want Carter? Quarterback Brett Favre and safety LeRoy Butler didn't sound too excited when asked that question by the Wisconsin State Journal.
"I don't know if he'd really fit within the framework of our system," Favre said. "I know one thing: What's made this team successful over the years is unselfishness. Not saying that (Carter) is selfish and wants the ball, but if he went through a season like our guys have to, like (Freeman's) had to, where he might only have two catches in a game, how impatient will he be? I'm not saying that in a negative way, I just don't know. He may say after the game, ‘Hey, I'm supposed to get the ball here,' and that wouldn't work here. It just wouldn't work. That's just not the way we are. He can still play. There's no doubt about that."
Said Butler: "He's a different type of player. We've never had anyone like him. I don't know if what you'd get out of it would outweigh what else you'd get out of it. I don't even think it'll be something we'll look at. Not at all. I don't see what we'd be gaining."
Ray Sherman, who had two stints as a Vikings assistant under Green and was fired as offensive coordinator after only one season, stayed clear of the Carter question. "I think we've got some good guys here," he said. "I think we're pretty set on what we're going to do. Cris is a friend of mine, but I'm not touching that."
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