Randy Moss has returned to where it all began.
Wearing his familiar purple No. 84 jersey, the star receiver practiced with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, a day after he was acquired from the New England Patriots in a trade his new team hopes will get them right back in the Super Bowl conversation.
Audio: Randy Moss Press Conference
“To all the Vikings fans that are coming to the Metrodome, pull your 84 jerseys out, man,” Moss said. “I think this is going to be a fun ride.”
With owners Zygi and Mark Wilf watching from the sidelines, Moss caught passes from Brett Favre and talked to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as he prepares for Monday night’s road game against the New York Jets.
“Who woulda ever thunk it?” Favre asked.
Moss spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota, emerging as the best deep threat in the league. He was traded to Oakland in 2005 and spent the past three-plus seasons with the Patriots before being dealt back to the Vikings on Wednesday.
“I thought about this time and time again,” Moss said. “How is this thing going to play out? Is the love for me still here in Minnesota? All I’ve been seeing is nothing but positives.”
No matter where he has played — in college, with the Vikings after he slid down the draft board in 1998 or in New England after many thought he was washed up — Moss has always played his best with a chip on his shoulder.
That’s what the Vikings are hoping to see again.
“I think there’s always that,” coach Brad Childress said after the trade was announced. “The great thing about this business is you have to do it every week. For anybody that is saying anything bad about Randy Moss, he gets a chance to show them wrong. That’s never a bad motivator.”
Moss became a star in college, when he ended up at Marshall after off-the-field issues caused Notre Dame to rescind a scholarship offer. He had two brilliant seasons with the Thundering Herd, but he fell to the Vikings at No. 21 in the 1998 draft because of concerns about his character.
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Moss unleashed all that pent-up frustration in his first season, scoring 17 touchdowns and averaging more than 19 yards per catch to help the Vikings reach the NFC title game. In his seven seasons with the Vikings, Moss caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns.
But the Vikings eventually grew tired of Moss’s occasionally petulant behavior, and shipped him to the Raiders in 2005. A few nagging injuries and Oakland’s struggles on the field combined to make his two years there largely unproductive.
The Patriots got Moss from the Raiders for just a fourth-round draft pick.
His first year in New England ranks among the very best from any receiver in NFL history, with 98 catches for 1,493 yards and a record 23 touchdowns to help the Patriots reach the Super Bowl. He caught 50 touchdowns in 52 games with the Patriots.
Moss entered this season in the final year of a three-year, $27 million contract and made no secret of his desire for a new deal. He complained about not feeling wanted in New England and said that he expected this year to be his last with the Patriots.
After going without a catch Monday night against the Dolphins, Moss was traded to the Vikings.
“There was never any incident or discipline problem with Randy,” coach Bill Belichick said Thursday. “There never has been one with me in four years. And it certainly wasn’t about contract and money.”
Now the Vikings are hoping Moss can find enough motivation to return to his dominant form and revive a stagnant passing offense.
“He looked right at home,” Childress said.
Favre has long hoped to play with Moss, and now he has the deep threat he has been missing since Sidney Ricehad hip surgery in August.
“Did I want to get traded out of New England? I don’t know what the answer is,” Moss said. “All I can say is there’s no other place I’d rather get traded to besides Minnesota.”