The list of inspiring and iconic slogans posted in locker rooms is long. Football players at Notre Dame are told to “play like a champion today,” and the Montreal Canadiens stare at a verse from the World War Two poem “In Flanders Fields” while lacing up their skates.
We don’t have visual proof yet, but somewhere in the Patriots locker room there must be a life-sized portrait of Bill Belichick underneath the words “you’re either with us, or you’re against us.” Somehow, this is inspiring.
Only weeks after his rant about not feeling wanted in New England, Randy Moss isn’t in New England any more. It’s a predictable outcome for a franchise notorious for not forking over massive paychecks to elite stars, and a management team and coaching staff that has little tolerance for the outspoken divas of the NFL.
By not even starting negotiations for a contract extension, the Patriots made it clear that Moss was playing his final season in New England. Scheduled to make $6.4 million this year, Moss wanted a new deal, but the Pats wouldn’t bite.
It was a familiar refrain for a team that laboured over Tom Brady’s contract before finally making him the NFL’s highest paid player, and traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders days before the 2009 season kicked off. It comes back to either money, behaviour, or both, with the tenures of Corey Dillon and Deion Branch ending in a similar fashion.
Other soldiers more willing to march in line will fill the void, and life will go on just fine in the land of muskets and Miss Kentucky. Wes Welker will become the team’s No.1 receiver–if he wasn’t already–and explosive rookie sophomore Brandon Tate will step into the hole created by Moss’ departure.
We’ll find out if Tate can do more than torch cover teams on kick returns. I’m sure he’ll be just find.
Moss becomes another castoff from the good ship Belichick, the Jedi master who says little, but speaks with his actions towards players who don’t conform. With the Vikings limping at wide receiver due to the absence of Sidney Rice and the on again, off again health of Percy Harvin, the Patriots jumped on an opportunity to move an aging receiver.
Moss hasn’t really slammed into the age wall yet though. Two years ago he still broke the 1,000 yard mark on a team that had Brady for one half of football in the first week, and last year Moss caught 83 balls for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But perception is always most influenced by recent events, and Moss has been an epic disappointment this season, failing to catch a single pass in New England’s Monday night win over Miami. The sample size is far too small to draw any grand conclusions, but it’s troubling that Moss’ highest output this year is his 59 yards in Week 1.
If his old bones are creaking, a rest would do Moss some good. That could be a problem, since the Vikings already had their bye week, meaning Moss won’t have a bye this season and will play all 17 weeks.
Along with Randy’s bones, you can count Bud Selig among the haters of this trade. In fact, Selig probably just hates football in general at this point. Donovan McNabb was traded on baseball’s opening day back in April, and now Moss goes to Minnesota on the same day the MLB playoffs are opening, and the Twins are playing their first playoff game at a new ballpark. Ouch.
His lack of production this season could be the beginning of a Terrell Owens-esque decline for Moss. Or it could just be Randy Moss being Randy Moss, with the malcontent wideout taking a few in-game coffee breaks. Refreshed and rejuvenated in the purple-and-gold, Moss could be explosive when he rejoins the Vikings, the place where it all began.
Supported by the running game of Adrian Peterson, who has the third most rushing yards in the league, the Vikings have the foundation for a very potent passing attack. Sidney Rice will return at mid-season to join Moss, Harvin, and Brett Favre’s new favourite, target tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
Maybe Favre will stay for another season or two…or five. Yes, I went there. Why not, everyone else is.