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NFL DRAFT 1998 | THE NFL

Green Gathers Moss

Viking Coach Has No Doubts He Got Good Guy in 21st Slot

April 19, 1998|T.J. SIMERS

Dennis Green and Randy Moss together. Why of course, it figured.

Twenty teams passed on Marshall wide receiver Moss, the premier offensive scoring threat in Saturday's NFL draft, because of his off-the-field behavior, and then Green stepped forward for Minnesota, predicting it as far back as last November, he said, and proclaiming, "We think his life is ahead of him."

No kidding. If it wasn't, now that would be a story.

"The glass is full," continued Green, but of what he did not say.

Green, the author of "No Room For Crybabies," went against the assessment of most NFL teams and opened his locker room to Moss with unbridled joy. "That's been our philosophy; we'll take the best player available."

Even if there's a possibility some day that he will need a weekend furlough to play for the Vikings?

"We have no doubts about Randy Moss," Green said. "We will team him up with Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith and Andrew Glover and we will have the most potent offense in the National Football League. That's why we drafted him."

Green, his own past pockmarked with accusations of sexual harassment and legal difficulties surrounding alleged payments for an abortion for his mistress, signed Moss' older brother, Eric, an offensive tackle from Ohio State last November. Most people predicted Eric Moss would last longer in Minnesota than Green after it appeared Green was about to be fired, but somehow he survived.

Unbelievably--and why would he lie?--Green said he figured last November that he would land Moss in this draft, his very own explanation on ESPN shortly after Minnesota's selection a telling indictment of what a risky move it is.

"Last November I thought it could be, regardless if we were picking 30 or farther down, that we would get the player," said Green, suggesting no other team in the league would touch him.

The Dallas Cowboys passed on Moss, and they are experts at stockpiling bad characters. Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson traded his 19th pick to Green Bay for the 29th selection in Round 1 before Saturday's festivities, and said later, "We wouldn't have taken Moss if he had been there at No. 19."

The Oakland Raiders passed on Moss, and wouldn't that have been a matchup made in heaven? Tennessee took a wide receiver at No. 16 in Utah's Kevin Dyson who scored 23 fewer touchdowns than Moss last season.

Moss earned probation after assaulting a fellow student in high school and then served jail time after a probation violation for using marijuana before going on to play at Marshall. Charges were never pressed against him at Marshall after he was arrested for a domestic dispute with the mother of his child, but some NFL people suggested there might be other problems that had slipped by unnoticed.

"As far as I know, I haven't seen any policemen in my face," Moss said Saturday. "As of right now, my nose has been clean."

Author Tom Clancy, still needing NFL approval to become the owner of the Vikings, reportedly had no idea of Vikings' selection of Moss until after it was announced. At the very least he might have a new model for the next villain to challenge Jack Ryan, the main character in his novels.

"Coach [Green] took a lot of heat for this, but he just caught a steal," said Moss, who caught 53 touchdown passes in his two-year Marshall career.

The Vikings passed on defensive lineman Warren Sapp two years ago because of character concerns, and Sapp went on to Tampa Bay, earned Pro Bowl honors and a huge contract this off-season.

"Keep in mind, all the Warren Sapp information came the day before the draft and the day of the draft," Green said. "People knew very little about what was going on with Warren Sapp and you had to make a decision very quickly on not much information.

"We've known about Randy Moss for two years. We're not going to get caught up in what happened to an 18-year-old man in a high school in West Virginia."

Green said he has talked to Moss' brother, and has the support system in place to steer Moss in the proper direction. Carter, an ordained minister, overcame alcohol problems that ended his stay in Philadelphia.

"I don't think I need no influences," Moss told Minnesota reporters. "I just need some guidance from the older guys. I don't think my character problem is a big issue."

Obviously, it's not the first time he has been wrong. It was the biggest issue in the first round of an otherwise uneventful draft.

Indianapolis General Manager Bill Polian fibbed Friday night when telling ESPN commentator Mark Malone that the Colts still remained undecided between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, having already called Manning, the Tennessee quarterback, to advise him he would be the first pick in the draft.

"I know how to keep a secret," said Manning, who will wear No. 18, the number worn by his father, Archie, while playing at the University of Mississippi.

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