Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
January 4, 2005
Moments after Randy Moss abandoned his team Sunday at FedExField, a particularly agitated 309-pound man gave chase. Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, enraged that Moss left the field with two seconds remaining in the Vikings' 21-18 loss to Washington, confronted the wide receiver in the locker room and minced few words during a stern lecture.
"I didn't like it," Birk said Monday. "I made sure to get to the locker room quick to talk to him about it. And hopefully, it won't happen again."
At a time when the Vikings are attempting to move past a 3-7 finish and focus on their improbable playoff berth, numerous members of the organization remained bewildered and angered by Moss' petulant act. Birk said his tirade could be repeated only "with a lot of bleeps," and coach Mike Tice spoke to Moss for more than two hours Sunday night and Monday morning.
While Tice indicated he would not fine or otherwise discipline Moss, several locker room leaders -- including Birk and quarterback Daunte Culpepper -- issued rare public rebukes of their superstar teammate.
"Really," Culpepper said, "I don't like what he did. I didn't know about it at the time, because I was on the field. But I know I'm going to address it with him, for sure. I definitely don't like it.
"Randy is Randy," Culpepper added. "He does his thing. He knows what he was doing. He's a grown man. But it's all about winning championships, and is that helping us move toward a championship? That's a question he has to ask himself."
Moss was not available to ask or answer any questions Monday; Tice apparently excused him from a series of team meetings and a 45-minute afternoon practice.
Moss has left the field early two other times in his career, during consecutive losses to Detroit and Jacksonville in December 2001. He was said to be stung by criticism he received last season when trainers sent him to the locker room for back treatment in the second quarter of a game at Detroit; since then, he has requested a trainer accompany him to prevent any further misperceptions about his intent.
There was no confusion Sunday, however, when Moss began walking toward the Vikings locker room, his helmet off and his head down. At the time, the Vikings were lining up for an onside kick. Had they recovered, there might have been time for one final Hail Mary pass to try and win the game.
Most players did not realize what happened until much later. Veteran receiver Marcus Robinson said, "I don't know why people are making a big deal about it" but stopped short of supporting Moss.
"That's Randy," Robinson said. "He chose to do that. That's on him. I wasn't worried too much about it. He's going to do what he's going to do. It's not a reflection on me or anybody else. It's a reflection on him and what he does. ... That's Randy Moss. He can do basically what he wants to do. He did what he did for whatever reason."
Mechanical difficulties delayed the Vikings' charter flight from returning to the Twin Cities until 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Tice said Moss called him at home later that night and then visited him Monday morning at Winter Park.
"I understand his frustration," Tice said. "But we can't let our frustrations make us make poor decisions of poor judgment. Obviously, that was poor judgment, and he understands that. ... With two seconds to go, contrary to belief, the game wasn't over. Maybe something happens and we have a chance to take one more shot."
Absent of formal discipline, Tice said, Moss "can make it up to us. He can go out and make a whole lot of plays this week."
Indeed, Moss has saved some of the best games of his career for Sunday's opponent, the Green Bay Packers. In 13 career games against Green Bay, Moss has caught 66 passes for 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Other rays of optimism were difficult to find Monday at Winter Park, where Tice said: "It's had to find any joy in Mudville." Owner Red McCombs did his best to inject some cheer, saying there is nothing bittersweet about a playoff game.
"It's totally sweet," McCombs said. "You play all year to get here. Now we're here. I'm so excited about it. Everything we want is out there for us, plain as day. Now all we have to do is get it."
McCombs said the Moss incident "doesn't concern me at all," and said the issue was so insignificant that he did not ask Tice about it during a morning phone conversation. McCombs said any discussion about Moss and the team's 3-7 finish "is not for today; it's for after the season is over."
"Today, we're not worried about yesterday," McCombs said. "I look at the playoffs and think we have as good a shot as any team to [win the Super Bowl]. I like our place. We lost to [the Packers] twice this year in close games, so we know we can beat them. We don't need any extra incentive. I don't see how it could have set up any better way."