AP PHOTO BY MICHAEL DWYER
Former Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss (right) and quarterback Tom Brady (left) reportedly had an altercation before Moss was traded to Minnesota that Moss wanted Brady to cut his hair and Brady wanted Moss to shave his beard. Coach Bill Belichick quickly downplayed the report.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick wants to leave the trade of Randy Moss behind and focus on playing the Baltimore Ravens.
The subject, though, keeps coming up.
The coach of the New England Patriots downplayed on Monday a report that Moss and Tom Brady had an altercation before the wide receiver was traded to the Minnesota Vikings last Wednesday.
“That’s news to me,” Belichick said during a conference call.
Did he ask Brady whether the spat occurred?
“That’s my answer. News to me,” he said.
With his team returning from an off week before Sunday’s game against Baltimore, Belichick said he spent time during the weekend trying “to catch up on some stuff with the family and kids. Watch them play.”
But in a pregame show on Sunday, CBS analyst Charley Casserly reported that the week before the trade, Brady and Moss “went-toe-to-toe and had to be separated.”
Casserly, general manager of the Washington Redskins from 1989-99 and Houston Texans from 2000-06, said, “one of Brady’s problems with Moss was his behavior as a Patriot. Then one of the things that was overheard was Brady telling Moss, ‘you need to cut your beard.’ Moss counters, ‘you need to get your hair cut. You look like a girl.’ ”
After the trade, Moss and Brady praised each other as had been their custom in public comments throughout their three-plus seasons as teammates.
“Being able to come from a place such as New England, having a great Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady, a Hall of coach in Bill Belichick and then being able to come to a Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett (Favre), what else can you ask for?” Moss said the day of the trade.
“Randy really knows how I feel about him,” Brady said the next day in an interview for Patriots All-Access on WBZ-TV. “I love him as a guy, as a person, as a player. (He) did a lot of great things for this team.”
The day after the trade, Belichick downplayed any input Brady may have had.
“Tom doesn’t make personnel decisions,” he said.
Belichick also said then that he never had an incident or discipline problem with Moss. When asked if that applied to other team personnel, he said, “I told you what I thought about Randy.”
He also described as “total fabrication” a report by former Patriots receiver Troy Brown on the New England Cable News network last week that after a 41-14 win in Miami two days before the trade, “Apparently, Belichick came to the back of the plane to speak with Randy and Randy just pretty much ignored him.”
On Monday, Belichick’s reaction to Casserly’s report was mild compared to his comments after Casserly said a week before the Patriots 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10 that Brady had been playing with three broken ribs.
“Who’s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins?” Belichick said on WEEI radio. “He has no relationship to this team.”
In that playoff game and the four regular-season games that preceded it, Brady was listed on the Patriots injury report with injuries to a rib, right finger and right shoulder.
But this season he’s been healthy and very effective as the Patriots have started with a 3-1 record. His last game against the Ravens, though, was one of the worst of his career with three interceptions, three sacks and a 54.7 completion percentage.
The Ravens (4-1) are coming off their most dominant performance of the season, a 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday in which Ray Rice ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns. In the playoff game against New England, Rice had 159 yards rushing, starting with an 83-yard touchdown on the game’s first offensive play.
“Anytime your season ends, you remember that game,” Belichick said, “but now we have a chance to play that team again. It’s a new matchup. It’s a new game. Hopefully, we can learn from some of the things that happened in that game.”
Moss, a dangerous deep threat, had five catches for just 48 yards in that game.
Now that he’s gone, the Patriots downfield passing game is weaker with second-year pro Brandon Tate expected to start in Moss’ spot.
“We’ll go through the same process we go through every week, which is look at the team that we’re playing and look at what our options are, and try to come up with the best game plan that we can against them,” Belichick said. “I think we’ll still be using the same playbook.”