Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

He's Pushing It

Moss wasn't suspended for traffic incident, the latest problem for talented receiver

October 06, 2002|SAM FARMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The TV cameras were rolling last month as Randy Moss walked through the lobby of the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center in Minneapolis. Several reporters waited outside in the drizzle, and, even through the thick glass windows, they could hear the Minnesota Viking receiver whistling a tune. He popped open an exit door and the throng was there to greet him.

"Randy, can you fill us in on what happened?" a reporter shouted.

"No. You'll hear about it later."

"What can you tell us?" asked another.

"What you already know."

More prodding. Moss grew increasingly agitated.

"You're going to hear my side later.... When I feel like talking, that's when later's going to be."

He said he was "treated bad" during his night in jail, that it was all a misunderstanding, that he was confused a day earlier when he allegedly used his 2002 Lexus to push a traffic-control agent a half-block when she tried to stop him from making an illegal turn. He didn't want to talk about the incident now, though, not three steps out of jail. A reporter persisted.

"Was it a wrong turn ..."

"What'd I just tell you, woman?" Moss snapped. "I'm not getting into that."

*

Whistling? Yes. Carefree? Hardly.

The pressure is building on Moss, and the 25-year-old receiver is at a troubling crossroads. He faces two misdemeanor charges for his traffic transgressions, and one count of drug possession after police found a small amount of marijuana in his car. Although the drug charge carries a maximum $200 fine, it could wind up costing Moss a lot more. He reportedly failed an NFL drug test last year, and a second such violation might lead to suspension.

His public image is in tatters, and his team isn't doing much better. The Vikings are 0-4 for the first time since 1967, and first-year Coach Mike Tice is desperately trying to halt the free fall, against the backdrop of published reports that the team is on the verge of being sold. Two Minnesota groups are the leading candidates; one is headed by Timberwolves' owner Glen Taylor.

Mercifully, this the Vikings' week off.

It was Tice who came up with the idea of the "Randy Ratio," having quarterback Daunte Culpepper throw to Moss at least 40% of the time. Instead of producing spectacular pass plays, the Culpepper-Moss pairing has been a spectacle, with the two screaming at each other on the sideline.

"The word is already out that I'm a demon," Moss said in a tearful interview with ESPN's Andrea Kremer, granted after his arrest. "Before that, I was just a bad guy. I'm just ... attitude, this and that. Now, I'm reckless and a demon. My head is already chopped off."

Often, it seems, Moss acts as if he had no head in the first place. Despite his tremendous physical ability and a record-breaking college career at Division I-AA Marshall, he fell to the 21st pick in the 1998 draft because of character questions.

He first ran afoul of the law in 1995, during his senior year at DuPont High in Rand, W.Va., when he pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for kicking another student. Sixty days were tacked onto Moss' sentence after he tested positive for marijuana during his first week in jail.

Not only did those convictions cost Moss scholarship offers to Notre Dame and Florida State, they scared off plenty of NFL scouts who saw him as enormously talented but far too much of a risk. The Vikings gave him a chance, and he made them look brilliant. As a rookie, he was the NFL's most dominant receiver, catching 69 passes for 1,313 yards with 17 touchdowns.

His numbers improved in 1999 and 2000 as he ascended to stardom and took his place among the greatest receivers in NFL history. There were embarrassing episodes--squirting a water bottle at an official; bickering with fellow receiver Cris Carter; berating Viking corporate sponsors who joined the team on a trip and demanding those benefactors move to the back of the airport bus--but nothing that team officials couldn't stomach.

Moss was seldom scolded, often rewarded. Before last season, the Vikings signed him to an eight-year deal worth $75 million. Months later, he drew the ire of many in the sports world--not only the NFL--when he said he truly plays only when he wants to play.

"That's an insult to all professional athletes," said Pat Croce, former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. "It's an insult to all athletes. When you're getting paid to play, you don't have the determination of playing when you want to or not. That's your job. It's an insult to the fans, who want to pay to watch, whether it be on TV or in person. When someone says, 'I play when I want to play,' that insults our intelligence."

That said, Croce added that it's important that the Vikings stand by Moss, as they have. Croce steadfastly stood alongside All-Star guard Allen Iverson throughout all the player's legal problems.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|