Randy Moss came home to the Metrodome on Sunday in the Minnesota Vikings game against the Dallas Cowboys. Not exactly the focal point of the offense, Moss caught five passes for 55 yards, but was still cheered loudly by the Purple faithful. Still learning the Vikings offense, Moss drew double coverage and spent part of the afternoon as a decoy. Vikings fans have seen that before. What they haven’t seen, however, is Randy Moss, the locker room leader, who lit up his teammates at halftime and inspired the team toward an important victory.
According to a story in the Star Tribune, Moss had some choice words for his teammates’ lackluster first half performance against the Cowboys and even though he rejoined the team less than two weeks ago, he wasn’t afraid to share them. Last year’s locker room leader Brett Favre was glad to hear it:
“I think it was a matter of fact, what we needed to hear,” Favre told the Star Tribune. “It wasn’t anything scientific. It had a couple of choice words in it that I’d rather not use.
“Randy was just saying, ‘Hey, either we stay out on the field longer or we score in that short period of time we’re out there. Everyone has to take ownership of it,'” Favre said. “Once again, there was no secret to any of those things, but a coach can come in and say those things over and over again and sometimes it’s in one ear and out the other because you hear it from that guy all the time. To hear it from a guy like Randy, [I] kind of saw the reaction, all of a sudden you see guys [go], ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ “
After the game and the Vikings’ comeback 24-17 win, Moss once again gathered the troops after head coach Brad Childress addressed them. He was caught on camera congratulating the team for playing for all four quarters to ensure the win. Then he implored them to get ready to go back to work the next day.
Is this the same Randy Moss who uttered the infamous quote “I play when I want to play,” or the player accused of taking plays off, or the person who walked off the field late in a game against Washington before the clock had run out? Something has happened to Moss in the five years since he left Minnesota, and so far, behind the scenes, it appears to be a good thing.
To be sure, the new Moss actually is an older Moss (five years older, to be exact) and some have said he has lost a step and is not getting the separation from defenders that he used to. Even though his last big play in New England was an electrifying one-handed, highlight-reel TD catch against Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, some have conjectured you won’t see the incredible acrobatic catches of his earlier career in Minnesota. That may be true, even the Super Freak is human and subject to the ravages of time, but his contributions on the field will continue to increase as he learns more of the offense and gets more reps with his QB.
But if he has matured into a locker room leader who can still lead by example on the field, it bodes well for the continued growth of this team as the season goes forward. Both Moss and Favre have lost a bit of tread off the tires in their long NFL careers, but together they may just be the perfect combination of wisdom, experience and now leadership in Moss’ case that can take this struggling team and propel it back to the level of performance it achieved in 2009. He seems to be helping bring a smile back to Favre’s face.
Favre was all in last year; he gave it everything he had and came up just short and now has looked more like a 41-year old quarterback this season. In fact, after seeing how the New Orleans Saints beat Favre last year in the NFC championship game, the rest of the league seems to be emulating it, thinking they “won’t get fooled again.” Success will be even harder won this season for Favre.
Perhaps it is time for the new Moss to help shoulder the leadership of this team with Favre. It worked when the Vikings came out the second half and took the lead from the Cowboys and grasped their season before it slipped away. It will be fun to watch them try to conjure up some of the old magic in coming weeks. If they can, the whole season could be magic.