By The Associated Press
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — In his last act with Minnesota, Randy Moss stepped to a podium to fawn over the New England Patriots, criticize the Vikings for ignoring his strategic advice, and announce his plan to interview himself the rest of the season instead of letting reporters do it.
So much for that boost to Brett Favre’s passing attack.
Moss’s second go-round in Minnesota was far less successful than the first, not to mention swift and, simply, bizarre. After four games and three disappointing losses, coach Brad Childress showed Moss who was boss by telling Vikings players in a team meeting Monday afternoon the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver was being let go.
“This decision was made based on what we thought was in the best interests of the Minnesota Vikings, both in the short and long term,” Childress said several hours later in a team-issued statement. “We wish Randy the best as he moves forward in his career.”
Just four weeks ago, Moss was gushing about his return to Minnesota, where he looked forward to seeing those purple No. 84 jerseys in the crowd more than five years after the Vikings first dumped him in a trade.
The deal that brought him back last month from the Patriots cost the Vikings (2-5) a third-round draft pick and more than $1.5 million for those four games.
“I was shocked by it a little bit, but again I think it was something we have to stand behind,” linebacker Ben Leber said, adding: “I’m not sure what the motiviation was or what they’re thinking, but it certainly is a surprise when you think you trade for a guy a couple weeks ago and then release him a few weeks later.”
Moss, who was fined $25,000 last week for failing to cooperate with the media and make himself regularly available for interviews, hugged several former Patriots teammates as well as coach Bill Belichick on the field Sunday after the Vikings lost 28-18. Then Moss repeatedly expressed admiration for Belichick and his players while chiding the Vikings for not paying enough attention to his tips on how to play the AFC East leaders in the run-up to the game.
“I know how hard these guys work here in New England, and the only thing that I really tried to do was take what the best coach in football history has brought upon me, or the knowledge that he has given me about the game of football, and I try to just sprinkle it off to the guys the best way I know how,” Moss said.
Moss had one catch for 8 yards against the Patriots, giving him a four-game total of 13 receptions, 174 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m definitely down that we lost this game. I didn’t expect we’d lose this game,” Moss said. “I don’t know how many more times I’ll be in New England again. But I leave coach Belichick and those guys with a salute: ‘I love you guys. I miss you. I’m out.'”
Childress didn’t mention the move when he talked to reporters Monday and said Moss was staying in the Boston area for a few days to spend time with family. Asked whether he regretted acquiring Moss, the coach said “not at present.”
Moss’s contract called for a $6.4 million base salary this season — leaving the Vikings on the hook for at least $1.5 million. If Moss is claimed on waivers, the team that signs him is responsible for the remainder of his salary. If he clears waivers, then he can sign as a free agent under new terms.
Claiming priority is based on inverse order of the current standings, so the Patriots — who lead the league at 6-1 — would be last. Belichick declined comment Monday.
“You can’t bait me into it,” he said.
His players, though, were surprised their former teammate was available again.
“I’m just hearing about this right now. Crazy,” right guard Stephen Neal said.
Moss was traded from Minnesota to Oakland in 2005 after frustrating the organization with his attitude. While his presence opened the field for wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has blossomed into one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players, Moss never materialized into the deep threat the Vikings needed when they traded for him Oct. 7. His longest catch was a 37-yarder, and he was only targeted twice against the Patriots.
Childress said Monday he didn’t regard Moss’ remarks as “incendiary.” The closest he came to criticizing him was acknowledging he could’ve caught a pass that fell incomplete in the end zone while the Patriots were called for pass interference.
“But again, I don’t know,” Childress said. “He was restricted. If they called pass interference, there had to be some kind of restriction.”
Asked whether he felt Moss had been playing hard, Childress said, “He’s playing hard when he needs to play hard.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Foxborough, Mass., contributed to this report.