When Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress told his players Monday afternoon that Randy Moss(notes) would be released because "we want good people that are good football players, and this just doesn't fit," several of them nodded their approval. Though Childress isn't especially popular in the locker room, some Vikings were on board with his decision to move on without Moss four weeks after the polarizing wideout was reacquired in a trade with the New England Patriots.
Even before Sunday's surreal address to the media following the Vikings' 28-18 defeat to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium – during which he questioned Childress' leadership while effusively praising his former coach, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots' organization – Moss had alienated some of his teammates with his brash, entitled behavior, most glaringly in an incident that occurred in the team's locker room last Friday afternoon, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
As is the team's custom on Fridays, a local food establishment was invited to the training facility to serve a catered, post-practice meal in the locker room. In this case, a St. Paul restaurant that is a favorite of former Vikings center Matt Birk(notes). As the proprietors helped serve chicken, ribs, pasta and other dishes to Vikings players, Moss paced up and down the serving line and loudly expressed his displeasure with the offerings.
According to one player who witnessed the scene, Moss yelled, "What the [expletive]? Who ordered this crap? I wouldn't feed this to my dog!"
Said the witness: "It was brutal. The truth is, he deserved to be cut after that. It was such an uncomfortable moment. You know that feeling where you just can tell someone feels so small? That's what it was like being there.
"This wasn't a chain – it was a mom-and-pop restaurant, and you could tell it was their best stuff. They had a special carving station set up, and there were players and other support staff lining up to eat it. And [Moss] is at his locker saying, 'You know, I used to have to eat that crap – but now I've got money.' You just felt so sad for them. I had never seen anyone treated like that.
"And by the way, the food was actually really good."
While Moss had his share of supporters in the locker room, some Vikings had grown disillusioned with his attitude. From the receiver's uneven effort in practice to his displays of self-centeredness off the field, some veterans believed Moss was becoming a bad influence to young players like second-year wideout Percy Harvin(notes).
There was also locker room speculation about Moss' effort – or lack thereof – on two plays in recent games. With the Vikes facing a last-gasp fourth-down pass in a 28-24 defeat to the Packers in Green Bay two Sundays ago, quarterback Brett Favre(notes) threw a high pass in the back of the end zone that sailed over Moss' head, though it didn't appear as though the receiver made an effort to jump for the ball.
In Sunday's game against the Patriots, with the Vikings trailing by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, Moss drew a pass-interference penalty on Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather(notes) while streaking down the left sideline. It appeared as though Moss might have been able to catch the pass for a touchdown after the penalty occurred but that he broke off the route once the flag was thrown.
The Vikings got the ball at the New England 9 and scored four plays later, though not before Favre sustained a lacerated chin that knocked him from the game.
Most of all, however, Moss' treatment of the restauranteurs in the locker room convinced some teammates that he wasn't worth the trouble. Since becoming the Vikings' coach in 2006, Childress has consistently preached that he wants "good people who are good football players," and Moss clearly didn't seem to be projecting himself as someone who fits in the former category.
When Childress, according to one person in Monday's meeting, said of Moss, "This just doesn't fit with how we treat people, how we talk to people and how we act," it was clear that he was referring to the incident that occurred last Friday. Sunday's stream-of-consciousness statement to the media only reinforced the internal perception that Moss was going out of his way to disrespect the organization.
With all of that said, Childress still has major credibility issues with his players, most of whom side with Favre in his ongoing clash with the coach. And there's no guarantee Childress will stay the coach for the remainder of the season. However, his decision to part ways with Moss was, for some, viewed as an understandable consequence of the receiver's behavior.
- Brad Childress