NFL

Moss' checkered career ends abruptly

Jay Glazer says Randy Moss leaves a nice legacy behind.
Jay Glazer says Randy Moss leaves a nice legacy behind.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Randy Moss ran out of places and time.

It says something about Moss that he didn’t get the kind of offers as, say, Plaxico Burress — a receiver who spent most of the past two years in jail for a gun offense. Burress, who will be the same age (34) as Moss when the regular season begins, signed with the Jets, while Moss, failing to draw such interest, said through his agent Monday he is retiring after 13 NFL seasons.

Moss steps away from the game minus a Super Bowl ring. His best opportunity to win a title seemingly came with the New England Patriots, who took a chance last week by signing another controversial receiver, Chad Ochocinco. Moss set single-season records for touchdowns (23) and multiple-TD games (8) in his first season with the Pats in 2007. All seemed well in Foxborough until Moss complained in the media about the lack of an extension, which led to a nomadic and lackluster 2010 season that resulted in two more touchdown catches (five) than teams he suited up for (three).

It might take the interest from another contender to bring Moss out of retirement.

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“He wants to win a championship,” said former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, who had a large role in drafting Moss in 1998. “I think that’s more important than catching touchdown passes for a player his age. He wants to win and he’s going to make every attempt to win.”

This was the kind of upheaval Green said he didn’t see in Moss, who had well-documented run-ins with the law dating to high school. Green said Moss and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning were the top two players in the 1998 draft, so the fact Moss fell to 21st indicated how worried teams were about his character.

“We knew of the issues, but we were confident that he was not a bad person,” Green said. “He was a solid teammate and he was a hard worker. I think it was a great move for Randy to come to Minnesota, and I think it was great move by us to get him.”

Moss netted more receiving yardage (9,142) than any other receiver in his first seven years in the NFL, and, at least early on in his Vikings tenure, it seemed he had left behind his troubles (and arrests).

“He brought the deep ball back,” Green said of Moss’ early years. “He was a deep threat who could outrun everybody. Like Lance Alworth in the 1960s, Moss was the stereotypical game-changer.”

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Coincidently after Green was fired after the 2001 season, Moss’ feats were overshadowed by numerous on-field (most vivid was his mock mooning of fans during a January 2005 playoff game) and off-field stunts (he used his Lexus to knock over a traffic officer in 2002). Moss was traded after the 2004 season to the Raiders for linebacker Napoleon Harris and two draft picks.

The days leading to his departure from the Raiders weren’t nearly as dramatic. He played through injuries much of the 2005 season and he wasn’t the only Oakland player to go through the motions as the team lurched to a 2-14 mark in 2006. Still, players around the league, including then-teammate Warren Sapp, questioned Moss’ commitment, which led the Raiders to unload Moss on the Patriots for a fourth-round pick following the season.

Moss was again a changed man in New England, buoyed by being with a Super Bowl contender and reeling in passes from Tom Brady. All was well in Foxborough — until Week 1 of the 2010 season when Moss said he wasn’t “appreciated” because he hadn't gotten a new contract. That set the wheels in motion for a trade back to the Vikings, who then released Moss after he reportedly humiliated a local caterer. Moss played the final half of last season with the Tennessee Titans.

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As Green hinted, this might not be the end. Teams had to scramble to get their teams formed after the lockout that tentatively ended last week. The league’s general managers have been more consumed with their $120 million salary caps to consider a reclamation project like Moss, who would no doubt bring some unwanted attention because of his baggage.

A few weeks into the season, it’ll be a different story. A receiver is injured, and all of a sudden Moss is “unretired.”

Tagged: Titans, Raiders, Vikings, Patriots, Jets, Randy Moss

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