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10 claps for Randy Moss

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We’ll accept Randy Moss at his word (for now) that he won’t be returning to the NFL.  And so it’s an appropriate time to reflect on his 13-year career.  Though Moss had more than his fair share of low moments, we’ll accentuate the positive (for now).

And there was plenty of positive.

So here’s one clap for Moss.  Ten different times.

Here are our (or at least my) 10 favorite Randy Moss memories, in chronological order.

1.  September 6, 1998.  Versus Tampa Bay.

Moss arrived from Marshall, which at the time had just moved from Division I-AA to low-level Division I-A.  And despite the large gap between the MAC and the NFL, Moss vowed to come to the pro game and “rip it up.”

He made good on that promise from the first game of his career.

Visiting the Metrodome, the Bucs opted not to use double coverage against the unproven player.  Four catches, 95 yards, two touchdowns, and a 31-7 score later, the Bucs wished they had.

2.  October 5, 1998.  At Green Bay.

The Packers, two-time defending NFC champions, hosted the upstart Vikings in a Monday night game at Lambeau Field.  It was widely expected that Brett Favre and company would put Moss and his cohorts in their place.

What unfolded instead was something former Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick would call a “game for the ages,” via the rookie’s official coming-out party on football’s national stage.

Moss racked up 190 yards on only five catches, adding two touchdowns in a 37-24 romp that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score suggested.

3.  November 26, 1998.  At Dallas.

Like many teams, the Cowboys made the mistake of passing on Moss in the first round of the 1998 draft.  Unlike every other team, the Cowboys told Moss they’d be picking him.

And so that huge shoulder chip Moss carried throughout his rookie season grew even bigger when he showed up in Texas Stadium and delivered three touchdowns on only three catches, averaging nearly 55 yards per reception.

Two of those came out of what would become routine — Moss running deep and coming up with the ball, even with one or two guys trying to keep it from happening.  The third featured Moss catching a short pass and then exploding down the sideline with the kind of burst rarely seen from someone whose hair isn’t on fire.

4.  December 12, 1999.  At Kansas City.

The Vikings of 1998 won 15 of 16 regular-season games, petering out in the NFC Championship at home.  The next season was, in comparison, disappointing, with the Vikings digging an early 1-2 hole and falling to 2-4 before waking up, thanks to the decision to bench Randall Cunningham and rely on Jeff George.

Traveling to Kansas City for a Sunday night game and clinging to playoff hopes with a 7-5 record, the Vikings fell behind the Chiefs, 21-0.  The Vikings tied the game in the third quarter at 21 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from George to Moss.  After a fumble by George was returned 44 yards for a touchdown and a fumble by Moss at the Chiefs’ seven with barely four minutes to play ended a scoring threat, the Vikings held the Chiefs.

Moss lined up deep, received the punt, and ran largely untouched 64 yards for the game-tying score.

But for a late field goal by the Chiefs to win the game, it would have been remembered as one of the biggest regular-season wins in Vikings history.

5.  October 1, 2000.  At Detroit.

On ESPN’s NFL Matchup, Merril Hoge became the first analyst to mention what many had noticed.  When the ball isn’t coming to Moss, he tends to loaf.

Moss responded that same week by catching seven passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Detroit.

That’s the first time I’ve ever heard somebody criticize me,” Moss said after the game.

It wouldn’t be the last.  Ironically, however, it was Hoge who spoke out on behalf of Moss after Moss was criticized in 2009 for, you guessed it, loafing when the ball didn’t come his way.

6.  January 9, 2005.  At Green Bay.

Swept by the Packers via identical 34-31 scores during the season but back in the playoffs for the first time since a 41-0 Meltdown in the Meadowlands in January 2001, no one expected the Vikings to go to Lambeau and win.

But win they did, with Moss poofing out his afro and catching two touchdown passes, including the unforgettable faux mooning that left Joe Buck appalled and triggered a $10,000 fine.

And, of course, that fine gave rise to Randy’s “straight cash homey” catch phrase, along with an even more entertaining description of what his next touchdown celebration may entail.

7.  November 18, 2007.  At Buffalo.

The win over the Packers would be Moss’ last victory during his first stint with the Vikings.  Traded to Oakland in early 2005, Moss disappeared for two seasons.  With everyone assuming Moss was washed up, the Patriots stole him for a fourth-round draft pick during the 2007 draft.

And then Moss would only go on to have one of the greatest single seasons for any receiver of all time.

The highlight of the 23-touchdown effort came against the Bills.  For the first and only time in his career, Moss scored four touchdowns in one game, via 10 catches for 128 yards during a 56-10 romp.

8.  The 2008 season.

After quarterback Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL during the first game of the season, Moss could have mentally checked out.

But he didn’t.

Even though the Patriots ultimately failed to make the playoffs (despite winning 11 games), his decision to remain focused and committed with Matt Cassel at quarterback demonstrated a level of maturity that, unfortunately, was the exception and not the rule.  He’d finish with 11 touchdowns, less than half of his record-setting total in 2007, but Moss was a good soldier during what turned out to be a bad year.

9.  September 19, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Dubbed a “slouch” in the offseason by All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, Moss got a chance to show Revis what a slouch can do.

Drawing single coverage from Darrelle with one minute to play in the first half of a 7-7 tie, Moss blew by Revis and made an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone.

Revis would reinjure a hamstring on the play and miss the second half of the eventual Jets win, plus the next two games.

10.  October 11, 2010.  At New York Jets.

Only three weeks later, Moss was back in New York for the first game of his second tour with the Vikings.

With Antonio Cromartie holding him in check for much of the game, Moss eventually got behind the coverage for a 37-yard rainbow from Brett Favre, his 500th career touchdown pass.

The play gave Vikings fans flashbacks to 1998, even though coach Brad Childress would dump Moss only three weeks later. . . .

Before Super Bowl XLII, Moss said he didn’t really know how he wanted to be remembered.  And that’s fitting, because many football fans don’t really know how they’ll remember him.  Even though I’ll remember plenty of the bad things, including a stubborn, play-when-I-wanna-play unwillingness to get the absolute most out of a God-given skill set that superseded even Jerry Rice’s, it will be hard to forget these 10 moments, along with plenty of other great things he did on the field.

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Bill O’Brien, Rick Smith say Tom Savage is the starter

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The Texans made a big move up the draft board on Thursday night when they sent their 2018 first-round pick to the Browns for the chance to use the 12th overall pick on quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Houston had already sent their 2018 second-round pick to Cleveland as a way to erase Brock Osweiler from their roster, so one might think that mortgaging the future in that manner would give Watson the inside track on a starting job this year. Both Texans coach Bill O’Brien and General Manager Rick Smith say that isn’t the case.

O’Brien called Savage the starter after the Watson pick was announced and Smith said he was “comfortable” with Savage as the starter, whcih was what he said in his pre-draft press conference as well. Watson didn’t upset the apple cart when discussing his immediate future.

“All I need to do is put my head down, don’t say anything, learn from all the veterans, learn from Tom Savage, learn from Brandon Weeden and just play my role,” Watson said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Whatever my role is help the team win.”

It’s April, which means there’s a lot of time for Watson to learn the offense and make people with the team less comfortable with leaving him on the bench. Until and unless that happens, it will be Savage at the helm in Houston.

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Both Cleveland and Washington deny Kirk Cousins trade talks

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One of the cannonballs into the pool on a busy news night for the NFL was a report from its own network that the Browns were trying to trade for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.

By the end of the night, one-sixteenth of the network’s ownership had denied it, with both teams poo-poohing it.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns executive Sashi Brown dismissed it, calling it “bad reporting.”

Meanwhile in Washington, via John Keim of ESPN.com, coach Jay Gruden said they didn’t “receive one call” about Cousins.

The Browns used three picks Thursday night, none on quarterbacks, which means their depth chart still consists of Cody Kessler and Brock Osweiler.

And until Cousins has a long-term deal somewhere, the speculation about him will continue, in Cleveland and elsewhere. But the time being, both teams are shooting this one down.

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Malik McDowell, Dalvin Cook among big names left after first round

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The NFL announced earlier this month that 22 players would be attending this year’s draft in Philadelphia, although that number dropped by one when cornerback Gareon Conley changed his plans this week.

Conley wound up going in the first round despite the sexual assault allegations that led him to pass on the trip, but a few of the other invitees remained on the board through all 32 picks. Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell, Alabama tackle Cam Robinson, Washington cornerback Kevin King and Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie all remain available heading into Round Two on Friday night.

They have company among recognizable names from outside of Philadelphia. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook didn’t join Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey as a first-round pick and joins Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara and Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon at the top of the list of available backs.

Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp, Washington safety Budda Baker and Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham are others that sometimes appeared as first-round picks in mock drafts before going unselected on Thursday. Quarterbacks Davis Webb and DeShone Kizer also figure to be among the names coming off the board when the draft resumes with the Packers on the clock at No. 33.

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49ers end Reuben Foster’s slide

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Reuben Foster’s loss was San Francisco’s gain.

The Alabama linebacker, one of the top talents in the draft, slid after being sent home from the Scouting Combine and, more recently, generating a positive drug test via a dilute sample.

It caused him to plunge, but the 49ers decided to trade up to get him, doing a deal with the Seahawks for the 31st pick in the draft.

The 49ers gave up their second-round pick and a fourth-round pick to make the move up and grab Foster, who possibly would have been nabbed by the Saints.

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Saints close first round by taking Ryan Ramczyk

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The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books.

The Saints closed out the night’s activities in Philadelphia by taking Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd overall pick. The pick was one they acquired from the Patriots in the trade that sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots.

Ramczyk is the latest of many strong blockers to come out of Madison in recent years and was widely projected to be a first-round pick this season. He had hip surgery after the end of the Badgers’ season, which may have pushed him down a bit but he ended the night making good on those projections.

They had previously taken cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 11th pick of the round, so they were able to address both sides of the ball before the night was out.

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Tak McKinley arrives with a flourish, with an “F”

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Pass rusher Takkarist McKinley brings a great story to the NFL. He also brings a colorful vocabulary.

During a live interview with Deion Sanders of NFL Network, McKinley spoke about the influence of his  late grandmother, and the promise he made to her to become a Division I athlete.

“I completed my promise,” McKinley said. “It means every f–king thing to me. Excuse my language. Man, fine me later. Fine me later, man.”

It will be interesting to see whether the NFL does, given that he made the statement during a broadcast on the league-owned network.

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Steelers grab T.J. Watt with 30th overall pick

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The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt with the 30th overall pick in the draft.

The brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, T.J. made a name for himself at Wisconsin last season.

He started just one season for the Badgers after converting to the defensive side of the ball. Watt posted a team-best 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks to earn First Team All-Big Ten and multiple All-American honors for Wisconsin last season.

Outside linebacker was a big need for the Steelers as James Harrison isn’t getting any younger.

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Browns move up to No. 29, take David Njoku

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The Browns are the busiest team in the NFL tonight.

With the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns selected David Njoku, the athletic tight end from the University of Miami.

The Browns moved up to No. 29 in a trade with the Packers, packaging the 33rd and 108th overall picks to get the 29th pick.

Thanks to their many trades, the Browns had three first-round picks: They took Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett first overall, took Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers 25th overall and then took Njoku. That’s two talented players on defense and a talented player on offense.

No team in the NFL added the kind of talent the Browns added tonight. Cleveland still hasn’t identified its franchise quarterback, but the Browns are starting to put a team in place that looks like it can compete, something that hasn’t been the case recently in Cleveland.

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Cowboys scarf down Taco Charlton with the 28th pick

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With a run of pass-rushers late in the first round, the Cowboys got their Taco to go.

With the 28th pick, Dallas added Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.

He had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss last year for the Wolverines, and has the kind of size and speed which make him a good option for the Cowboys.

While it’s hard to find the kind of “war daddy” pass-rusher Jerry Jones was hoping for at the end of the first round, Charlton’s a good option for a team which needs all the help they can find opposite Demarcus Lawrence.

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Bills take Tre’Davious White after trading down to No. 27

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The Bills were originally scheduled to pick much earlier on Thursday night, but the Chiefs’ desire to get quarterback Patrick Mahomes helped change that.

The Chiefs sent the Bills their first-round pick next year, a third-round pick this year and the No. 27 pick in exchange for the 10th pick and that haul was too much for Buffalo to pass up. They used that No. 27 pick to add LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White to their roster.

White started for most of his time in Baton Rouge and gives new Bills coach Sean McDermott an option to help build a cornerback corps that’s said goodbye to Stephon Gilmore and Nickell Robey-Coleman since the end of last season. Their departures should help White’s bid to play early for the Bills.

White is the third LSU player and fifth cornerback to come off the board on Thursday night. He’s also a punt returner, so his contributions to the Bills may go beyond defense.

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Falcons trade up for Tak McKinley

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The Seahawks held the 26th pick in the draft. Until the Falcons acquired it from them.

Atlanta moved up from No. 31 to select pass rusher Takkarist McKinley from UCLA.

He gives the Falcons a bookend to Vic Beasley, on a defense that quickly has become one of the best in the NFL under Dan Quinn.

The Seaahwks will now slide into the No. 31 spot, and possibly could slide down even farther.

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Browns select Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers

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The Cleveland Browns could have had Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with the 12th overall pick if they wanted him to fill a pressing need at the quarterback position.

Instead, the Browns traded back and ended up with Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers.

Peppers could play several different positions in the NFL, but was primarily a linebacker/safety at Michigan.

Peppers finished third in both tackles (72) and all-purpose yardage (an average of 62.6 yards per game) for the Wolverines in 2016, while leading the team with 16 tackles for loss and four sacks.

He’s also a capable special teams performer as well.

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At 24, Raiders take a chance on Gareon Conley

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In perhaps the biggest surprise of the first round of the NFL draft, the Raiders have selected Gareon Conley, the Ohio State cornerback who came under intense scrutiny this week when he was named as a suspect in a sexual assault investigation.

Until his name surfaced in the police investigation, Conley was expected to be a high first-round pick. As it turned out, Conley wasn’t a high first-round pick, but he was a first-round pick, with the Raiders taking him at No. 24.

Obviously, the Raiders have to be confident that Conley will be cleared. Conley has professed his innocence and insisted that he has multiple witnesses who can testify that he was never alone with his accuser on the night in question.

Conley is an undeniably talented football player. The Raiders also believe they can trust him to be clean off the field.

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Giants take Evan Engram with the 23rd pick

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The Giants found the tight end they needed, adding a pass-catching threat.

With the 23rd pick, they took Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram.

Engram had 65 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns last year, and is practically a slot receiver.

His 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine was the fastest at his position, and he gives fellow Ole Miss man Eli Manning another attractive option downfield.

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Lions take Jarrad Davis at No. 21

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The Lions needed a linebacker. They got on in Jarrad Davis.

The former Florida defender became the 21st pick in the first round of the draft on Thursday night. Davis likely fills the void created by the departure of DeAndre Levy.

Davis exits the board while Reuben Foster’s free-fall continues. He’s regarded as the best linebacker left on the board.

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