Moss brings act back to Minnesota to mixed reviews
MANKATO, Minn. -- Football season at the Metrodome seemed to be missing something last year.
For the first time in eight years, Randy Moss wasn't there hauling in long touchdown passes.
That could change Monday night when Moss returns to the place where he became a star for a preseason game against his former team. The Minnesota Vikings traded the supremely talented, but maddeningly enigmatic, Moss to the Oakland Raiders before last season.
"It is going to be something special," Moss said. "Hopefully, the Metrodome will sell out because I'm coming back, but I'm a Raider now."
Moss certainly is familiar with playing in front of a sellout crowd at the raucous Dome. When the Vikings drafted him in 1998, it was like one big adrenaline shot to a franchise that was stuck in a rut.
Before he came to town, the Vikings often had trouble filling seats. But every home game Moss played for the Vikings -- from his preseason debut in 1998 to his final appearance in the Dome in 2004 -- sold out.
He racked up more yards and scored more touchdowns in his first six seasons than any other receiver in NFL history, but he too often found himself in the middle of dustups on the field and off.
"What I did in Minnesota, what I accomplished in Minnesota, is way, way behind me. But this being my first trip back to the Metrodome, it will be special."
He was fined $10,000 for pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay crowd during Minnesota's playoff win two years ago, the same year he angered teammates by leaving the field with 2 seconds left in a regular-season loss against Washington.
Off the field, he got in a minor scrape with a traffic enforcement officer in 2002 and verbally abused corporate sponsors on a team bus in 2001.
Nevertheless, his No. 84 jerseys were wildly popular with fans, and still are spotted in the Twin Cities and at training camp in Mankato to this day.
"What I did in Minnesota, what I accomplished in Minnesota, is way, way behind me," Moss said. "But this being my first trip back to the Metrodome, it will be special, but I'm focusing on trying to get our offense moving in the right direction."
Moss was a polarizing force in Minnesota. Some teammates looked up to him, marveled at his unmatched talent and respected his ability to play through pain. Others grew weary of having to answer questions about his erratic behavior and questioned his effort in some games.
Center Matt Birk, who confronted Moss after he left the field early against Washington, was never a big fan.
"I don't know," Birk said when asked what he thought about Moss' return. "I guess I really don't care. He's on a different team now. He's got his own deal. I'm more worried about us."
The game also marks the head coaching debut for the Vikings' Brad Childress. The former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator was hired in January to replace Mike Tice.
While the Raiders opened the preseason with a win over Philadelphia last week, the Vikings will be hitting the field for the first time. Childress will unveil his version of the West Coast offense, which features shorter passes than the vertical game that Moss mastered with the Vikings.
"Hopefully he won't go too deep on us," Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "But it will be good to see him."
Raiders coach Art Shell said he wouldn't let the homecoming dictate how much playing time Moss will get. Shell is more interested in seeing the Raiders' new offense, which emphasizes the run and is a work in progress with new quarterback Aaron Brooks, develop.
"To say that we're going to give him much more playing time because he's going back to Minnesota, that's not the way it's going to work because we're in this thing for the long haul," Shell said. "So, Randy Moss will work with the progression of training camp, just like all the rest of our players. We're not going to do anything special."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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