As he welcomed Randy Moss into his team’s Ring of Honor on Monday afternoon, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf reminded the SuperFreak of a guarantee he thought he had with former owner Red McCombs as the Wilf family was purchasing the team 12 years ago.
“As I’ve told you before, one of the conditions [in the sale] was that you were going to stay with us,” Wilf told Moss while presenting him with his purple jacket during a midday ceremony in the Valhalla Club inside U.S. Bank Stadium. “A week later, we found out you were traded. That is not what was promised to us, and we regretted it ever since.
“But we have you here now in the Ring of Honor, and we’re very happy.”
Who better to honor than Randy Moss on a night when the Vikings’ hope was to put the run-based Adrian Peterson era behind them and begin a new season with an offense that’s not perpetually constipated near the line of scrimmage?
With Peterson on the enemy sideline, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford outplayed Drew Brees in a 29-19 win over the Saints. On passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield, Bradford was 4-for-5 for 110 yards and a touchdown. On balls thrown at least 15 yards downfield, Bradford was 7-for-8 for 198 yards.
Moss was in town as an ESPN analyst, halftime Ring of Honor recipient and, oh yeah, one of the greatest deep threats in the history of the forward pass. He was smiling before, during and after the game.
“Even to this day, if you’re playing Madden or somebody gets beat, they say, ‘You got Mossed!’ ” said former Vikings receiver Jake Reed, who was at the midday ceremony for his old buddy. “Who else got a little tag like that? Someone says, ‘You got Mossed!’ and everybody knows what you’re talking about. It means you just got your butt beat real bad.”
The Vikings, of course, haven’t “Mossed!” many defenders in a number of years. They haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009.
Moss, by comparison, topped 1,200 yards in six of his seven seasons with the Vikings (1998-2004).
Moss was asked why he thinks the Vikings made the deep ball look so easy in his day and made it look so doggone difficult in recent years.
He said he thinks fewer players today take the game as seriously as his generation did, and he’s not a big fan of rules that reduced practice time and intensity.
“I really think the game has been somewhat watered down,” Moss said. “I think it’s more, ‘Look at me, look at me,’ with the social media. And the game is still the same, but they’ve changed the way guys prepare and practice.
“We used to have two-a-day practices. We used to have pads on Wednesday and Thursday. … So whatever you put into your work is what you get on Sunday.”
Marie Green, the widow of former Vikings coach Dennis Green, spoke during the purple jacket ceremony. She was with Green in his office the day Moss fell to the Vikings in the 1998 draft.
“He was so excited, Randy,” Marie said of Denny. “He saw your potential and could see how special you are. You made him so proud.”
Moss was taken aback emotionally upon seeing Marie. He had tears in his eyes.
“I think the man upstairs blessed me to be able to showcase my talent, and I think it took me a long time to realize I was a blessed man,” he said. “This is a special day for me. I just love the game of football. That’s all I wanted to do was play football.”
If it were up to Wilf, Moss never would have left Minnesota.
“We thought we had a deal not to trade Randy,” Wilf said.
But hours later, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches. Diggs became the first receiver with two first-half touchdowns in a season opener since, yep, Randy Moss in 2004.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL