SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Randy Moss is prepared for cheers, he’s prepared for boos. He is embracing all the hype surrounding his return to Minnesota, where his illustrious NFL career began 14 years ago.
Moss is headed back to the Metrodome on Sunday in his No. 84 jersey for the San Francisco 49ers, eager to step onto the very field where he played some of his best games in seven-plus seasons with the Vikings and leave one final impression. Especially after his short, rocky stint back with the team in 2010 didn’t go quite as planned.
The 35-year-old Moss also plans to do his part to keep his new Niners team (2-0) on a nice early-season roll after showing the NFL it is among the best with wins over NFC powers Green Bay and Detroit.
Whether he will see any of those old Moss Vikings jerseys, he has no idea.
“I’m just very fortunate to go back where it all started at. We had some great times in Minnesota,” Moss said after practice Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to just hearing the Metrodome rock. Now I’m on with the away team and I look forward to a good game.”
Moss landed in San Francisco under reigning NFL Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh for a fresh start after a year out of football.
If he is counting his reps, chances or even keeping track of catches, Moss isn’t saying much. He has five receptions for 61 yards and one touchdown.
“Randy always, every week, is going to play a big part for us,” quarterback Alex Smith said Wednesday. “You never really know until game day sometimes what that actually is going to turn out to be.”
At this stage of his career, Moss is a role player behind Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. The 49ers also added Mario Manningham to an upgraded receiving corps that became a top priority after San Francisco fell just short of the Super Bowl with a 20-17 loss to the eventual champion New York Giants.
Moss earned the respect of his coaches and teammates long before he caught a touchdown pass in a season-opening victory at Lambeau Field. He thoughtfully instructs his teammates, he puts a little extra into every route, and the skinny, 6-foot-4 wideout keeps his mouth shut aside from the good-natured ribbing he hands out to teammates. They dish it right back, too, as defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois held a tape recorder to take part in Moss’ media session just off the field.
“I got my teammates sitting here messing with me,” Moss said, laughing. “I just think my focus now is just playing for the 49ers and being the best 49er I can be. I was drafted by coach Dennis Green and am still appreciative to this day. … He gave me a chance.”
Gone are those dreadlocks that long defined his look. As Moss has put it, he truly cherishes a fresh start as his career winds down.
“It seems like he’s always motivated to play. He’s had a great NFL career as we all know. He had a lot of great years here in Minnesota,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
“He still shows that if you blink, he can run by you. He has got that ability. He really seems to be rejuvenated in their offense.”