There's a forgotten man in the Randy Moss trade. It's the man Brett Favre had an emotional, 40-second hug with after the NFC Championship Game, when they both thought they'd never play together again. It's the man who has helped give Favre second thoughts about whether he made the right decision to return to the Vikings in late August. And Sidney Rice, on the day of the stunning Moss trade back to the Vikings, is the man of mystery in the whole story.
Rice had serious hip surgery on Aug. 23 after experiencing hip pain throughout the offseason. At the time, the Vikings hoped he could return to the team in about eight weeks. Well, we're at six weeks and two days this morning, and Rice is still on crutches. He'll return to the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., next week to have the hip re-examined, but it's clearly not healing as fast as the Vikings would have hoped. "I think he'll be lucky to get back playing in late November, early December,'' Vikings beat man Judd Zulgad said on Sirius NFL Radio this morning.
RELATED:Don Banks: Analyzing every angle of blockbuster Moss deal
So imagine you're Vikings coach Brad Childress. You have a quarterback quite probably in his final year, who you've begged to come back to play, and his favorite receiver is out for almost the whole season. The No. 2 receiver, Percy Harvin, is iffy most weeks because of migraine headaches that just won't go away. The third receiver, Bernard Berrian, is a guy Favre's never been able to form a good chemistry with. The slot receiver, Greg Camarillo, was just acquired from the Dolphins seven weeks ago. The Vikings tried to acquire a true No. 1 guy, Vincent Jackson, in trade, but San Diego GM A.J. Smith drove too hard a bargain. So the receiving corps is in shambles, basically.
You're Childress, and you look at the next four games. At the Jets. Dallas at home. At Green Bay. At New England. You're 1-2, and if you don't look out, you could be out of the pennant race by Halloween if you go 1-3 against this death row of opposition. In the NFC North, with Green Bay lording over you, you're not winning the division if you enter November 2-5. So you figure you have to do something.
And you make the deal that makes the most sense. You trade for a player who is combustible. But he's a player now who will be on his best and most competitive behavior because he's angling for a new contract. You look at his recent history, and except for his selfish rant on opening day after a big win over Cincinnati, you figure Moss will toe the line and be a good guy in the locker room. And you figure one last thing: Favre is going to be very, very happy to play with a big receiver he's longed to throw to for years.
It's well-documented that Favre lobbied his Green Bay front office hard for Moss in 2007, before the Patriots pulled the trigger on a deal for him. And before he retired from the Packers of 2008, he wanted Green Bay to sign Moss in free agency, something that clearly would have forestalled his retirement then.
All in all, the Vikings figured they had to make this deal because they'd already sold their souls to win this year. A third-round pick in 2011 to improve their chances to make the Super Bowl this year? In the end, because of the Rice uncertainty more than any other factor, they figured a third-rounder was a small price to pay for that last desperate bit of insurance.
Moss, for his part, sounds raring to go. When Childress spoke with the wideout this morning, he said Moss told him, "Coach, I'm just glad to be coming home.''
Moss, who played for seven starry seasons in Minnesota before an ignominious run in Oakland and star turn in New England, will dress for the Vikings' first practice of their game week Thursday in Eden Prairie, Minn., and will be in the lineup Monday night. Childress said he didn't know exactly what role Moss would fill in the game, but he said, "We'll get him up to speed, and he'll be in there. I know he's a bright football player.''
Interesting enough, Childress said Favre -- who lobbied the team to give former Packer wideout Javon Walker a shot in training camp this season -- did no such lobbying for Moss.
"None,'' Childress said. "No, no, no. When we told him, pretty late in the process, that we were investigating doing this, he was surprised. He raised an eyebrow to me when I told him. How would he even have known Randy was there for the taking? I don't think anyone knew.''
Childress said he felt Moss, 33, who has only nine catches in four games with the Patriots this year, still is "approximately the same player'' he has been in the past. "I've watched a lot of him,'' said Childress from his office today, "and he's still a huge vertical threat. He still attracts coverage. You've got to account for the guy.''
Moss caught 574 passes, 90 for touchdowns, in seven Minnesota seasons (1998-2004) before the Vikings shipped him to Oakland. Then, in 2007, a tarnished Moss was traded to New England, where he immediately had one of the best season a wideout has had in NFL history. Now he'll have a chance, again, to restart a stalled career with a quarterback, Favre, he's always yearned to play with.