FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When Randy Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, he took his knowledge of New England’s offense with him.
That may not help much when they visit the Patriots on Sunday.
“Sure, he can probably tell them the plays,” Tom Brady said Wednesday. “He knows the signals and stuff, but that’s why you have to change them. Hopefully, he tells them one thing, then you fake it and they’re guessing and maybe they guess wrong. Who knows?”
Signs, and whether the Patriots steal them or not, have become hot topics leading up to the game between the surging Patriots (5-1) and the struggling Vikings (2-4).
On Monday, Minnesota coach Brad Childress said New England stole signs during its 31-7 win over the Vikings in 2006 when coaches still signaled them in before the advent of radio hookups in a defensive player’s helmet.
“These were some of the all-time great signal stealers. In fact, that’s what was going on,” Childress said. “We were signaling from the sideline. They were good at it. It’s like stealing signals from a catcher.”
Childress elaborated on Wednesday.
“I’m sure it’s done throughout the league. We do it as well,” he said. “I didn’t mean any offense to any of those people (with the Patriots).”
The issue draws extra attention in New England because of penalties imposed by the NFL after it confiscated tapes from a Patriots employee who recorded the New York Jets’ defensive signals during the 2007 opener. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team was fined $250,000 and forced to forfeit its 2008 first-round draft choice.
Belichick brushed off Childress’ remarks.
“I’m not really too worried about 2006,” he said Wednesday. “I’m worried about this Sunday against Minnesota. I’m not worried about next Sunday, last Sunday, ’06, ’02, ’89. Really, it’s just this Sunday.”
The presence of Moss in a Vikings uniform adds to his concerns.
The Patriots traded their only deep threat on Oct. 6. In three-plus seasons with New England, Moss caught 259 passes, 50 for touchdowns. He knows Brady’s tendencies and the Patriots’ offensive system.
Now the Vikings know more of that, too.
“He’s very articulate. He spent time with our coaches yesterday and did a great job with both our offense and defensive coaches,” Childress said. “He did a good job. You never know what you’re going to get and how they have to play him. He at least had some insightfulness on both sides.”
The Patriots also could benefit from knowing Moss, particularly defensive backs who practiced against him.
“It’s big,” starting cornerback Kyle Arrington said. “Covering a guy like Moss or (Wes) Welker, it really prepared you, like (when) I came in as a (college) freshman. I covered guys like (Marques) Colston when I was at Hofstra. It really gets you prepared for a lot of other great receivers in the league.”
But Moss knows the Patriots defensive backs’ strengths and weaknesses. And if he should hear a familiar defensive call, that could help him get free for a big gain.
“We’ve worked against him and obviously have a good knowledge of him, but he knows a lot more,” Belichick said. ‘We know one guy. He knows all of us.”
Brady also tries to gain an edge whenever he can. When the Patriots have the ball, he pays attention to what the defenders are communicating to each other.
“You’re always trying to get an advantage. When I’m out there on the field, I know I’m listening for what they’re saying,” he said. “Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you’re trying to fool them with what you’re saying.
“I know other teams have said they watch TV copies of our games and they have all the stuff we do. I guess that’s just part of being diligent.”