Moss Taking on Leader Role

The big gripe about Randy Moss is that he's never been a leader. 2002 may show differently.

Randy Moss has been called many things in his short NFL career. One of them is that, perhaps aside from Jerry Rice, he is already the greatest wide receiver ever to play in the NFL. The other -- much darker -- side is that he is wasting his talent.

Moss' chickens came home to roost last year. After a much-publicized verbal caning at the hands of NFL "who 'dat" Merrill Hoge, a player of dubious distinction who is best known for numerous concussions that may put his "expert" status into question, Moss became a marked a man. His exclusion from the Pro Bowl last season was evidence that the backlash of bad publicity was catching on.

That perception will likely best be reflected in fantasy football publications, where Moss was the unquestioned king of the wide receivers, but has now been tagged as a flash in the pan. Whether it be fantasy or reality, Moss is going to change minds and turn heads -- especially of those who say his monumental success in the first three years of his career were somehow an aberration.

Unlike previous seasons, when Moss didn't take part in the team's off-season training program, VU has been told that not only has he not missed a practice or meeting, he's been helpful toward both rookies and newly signed Vikings veterans. In short, he's been a leader.

When Mike Tice said he wanted 25 percent of offensive plays this season directed at Moss, many observers thought he was talking off the top of his head and trying to justify the huge money Moss is being paid. If this off-season has been any indication, Moss is prepared to show not only that he is worthy of the money that he's being paid, but that Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt can touch him -- he already knows Meyshawn Johnson can't carry his strap.

If the Vikings are to return to the playoffs in 2002, Moss will be the key ingredient. He's been at Winter Park tbis spring and summer as much as any player and is ready to once again prove his doubters wrong. He still remembers draft day when he fell to the Vikes and the teams that passed on him. This year, he again has something to prove and, if history can show us anything, it wouldn't be wise to doubt him.

* Bryant McKinnie will make his first public promotional appearance Saturday, as he signs autographs at an event sponsored by Sports Decor Company, 1500 Cliff Road, Burnsville. He will be signing autographs from 10 a.m. until noon at the event and, for Vikings fans wanting to get a piece of franchise history, McKinnie's appearance will be something for fans to flock to.

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