EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Just four weeks ago, Randy Moss gushed about returning to Minnesota. He felt fortunate to return to his first team and was looking forward to seeing those purple No. 84 jerseys again.
One day after Moss’ rant following a loss at New England, the happy reunion was over.
Vikings players confirmed Monday that coach Brad Childress informed them during a team meeting that the wide receiver had been released.
“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 Monday night in a team-issued statement. “We wish Randy the best as he moves forward in his career.”
The NFL Network first reported the struggling Vikings (2-5) had waived the six-time Pro Bowler less than a month after acquiring him from the Patriots for a third-round draft pick. Moss returned to New England on Sunday and was wistful about his days with the AFC East leaders following Minnesota’s 28-18 loss and critical of the Vikings for not taking his game-planning advice.
Moss, who was fined $25,000 last week for failing to cooperate with the media and make himself regularly available for interviews, stepped to the podium after Sunday’s game but announced he wouldn’t take any questions. He repeatedly expressed admiration for coach Bill Belichick and his former team and criticized the Vikings for not paying enough attention to his advice in the run-up to the game.
“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.’”
Moss had only one catch for 8 yards against the Patriots. In four games for the Vikings, he had 13 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Childress didn’t mention the move when he talked to reporters 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.
Whether Moss would be welcomed back, well, that’s up to Belichick.
“Whatever he decides we’re open to as a team, and I’m sure he’ll do what’s best for the organization,” wide receiver Wes Welker said.
Moss was traded from Minnesota to Oakland in 2005 after frustrating the organization with his attitude. However, he was eager to connect with Brett Favre when he returned to the Vikings and talked about how much he still loved their fans some 5½ years after his departure.
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.”
Linebacker Ben Leber was one of a handful of players who was surprised by the move, but he didn’t sound happy about Moss’ postgame remarks, either.
“It was just, ‘Wow,’” Leber said. “Just because it sounded like it was unprompted and sounded like he wanted to get some stuff off his chest. He certainly has every right to do that. I don’t think that’s the way to do it.”
Leber said Childress didn’t give the team much of an explanation.
“He didn’t really dive into any details,” he said. “Just said, ‘That’s where we’re going to go with it.’”
AP Sports Writer Howard Ulman in Foxborough, Mass., contributed to this report.