Randy Moss evokes a lot of emotion in these parts, and for good reason. From 1998 until his trade to Oakland after the 2004 season, Moss was the most feared receiver in the NFL, and one of the more troubling personalities off of it. And he was simultaneously loved or hated by legions of Vikings fans every where.
He left here either a hero or a villain, and when he returned early in the 2010 season, for many, myself included, it was the Prodigal Son returning home. Randy would fix an ailing offense, the Vikes would get back on the winning track, and everything that was wrong about the trade that sent him out of Minnesota had been made right.
Yeah, not really.
Moss was gone scarcely a month later, described as a 'programmatic non-fit' by the head coach, which was an excuse to cover the fact that Randy was being Randy...again. Moss drifted to Tennessee, then out of football for a year, and now. he finds himself returning to Minnesota for his first regular season game in the Metrodome since the 2004 season, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
So, what can we expect from Moss?
To be honest, Moss hasn't sett he world on fire since he was signed in the off-season. Through two games, he is a pedestrian fourth on the 49ers in catches with 5, trailing Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, and Vernon Davis. He's third in receiving yards, and scored a TD on opening day against the Packers.
Moss is clearly not the explosive player he was in Minnesota or New England, but he can still get behind a secondary and cause damage, as he did against Green Bay. However, either by design or by accident, Moss only saw the field for 15 plays against the Lions, registering one catch for 14 yards.
It seems that so far, Moss is the third wide receiver, behind Manningham and Crabtree, and the fourth option for Alex Smith behind those two and Vernon Davis. I can't say I disagree with that, because I'm not sure how well Moss could do getting separation from the top CB's on the opposing defense. However, put him in the slot, and have him matched up on a nickel or dime back?
Advantage, San Francisco. The Vikings secondary is going to be sorely tested this week, and it starts with Vernon Davis against the Vikings linebackers and safeties. Should the Vikes somehow manage to limit Davis, I can see a scenario where Alex Smith looks to Moss to make some big plays.
But I can see that scenario playing out anyhow. We know, all too well what happens when you put a motivated Randy Moss on the field--just ask Dallas fans if you don't believe us Vikes fans. A motivated Moss could mean a bad, bad day for the Vikings, and he could turn back the clock and make some more Metrodome memories for himself and 49ers fans.
And cause Vikings fans everywhere nightmares.
But what's going to happen? I'll be the first to admit that I don't know, but I have a sneaking suspicion Jim Harbaugh, himself a longtime Vikings nemesis when he was the quarterback for the Chicago Bears, has some plays designed specifically for Moss, and I would expect him to have a good day in his return to Minnesota.
But through it all, I don't suspect Moss has revenge on his mind. Don't get me wrong, he was no fan of Brad Childress, and were Chilly still here, I think Moss would go all turn back the clock, vintage 'Superfreak' on the Vikings, just to rub it in. That second departure from Minnesota left a lot of hard feelings all the way around. But in his introductory press conference after the trade back to the Vikings, he spoke warmly of his time in Minnesota and of the fans, and I'd like to feel he'll always think warmly of his time in Minnesota and of the cheers he got from a fan base that loved him, even if we grew tired of his act at times.
So I'll watch Moss on Sunday, and I'll cheer for the Vikings to win, like I always do. But I'm never going to dislike Randy Moss. He'll always be the Superfreak to me.