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Emotional Randy Moss credits Dennis Green for Vikings success

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Randy Moss told stories about his breakout game at Lambeau Field. He said he should have explained his famous "I play when I want to play" quote. He saluted his fans, acknowledged "the people I rubbed wrong" and thanked the ownership group that oversaw both his acrimonious split with the Minnesota Vikings and his collegial return this week.

And behind it all, as Moss reflected on his career during a freewheeling news conference to announce his induction to the Vikings' Ring of Honor, was Dennis Green.

Moss became emotional as he talked about the late coach, taking nearly 30 seconds to compose himself before thanking Green for taking him 21st overall in the 1998 NFL draft.

Green, who died at age 67 following a heart attack last July, oversaw Moss' electric debut in Minnesota during the Vikings' 15-1 season in 1998. On Wednesday, Moss lamented the fact that he'd never gotten a true chance to say goodbye, while thanking Green for giving him a chance after he slid from the top of the draft due to concerns over his legal history.

"I was 6 years old [when I started] playing this game," Moss said. "I really don't know why I was treated the way I was treated on draft day, but Coach Green gave me an opportunity, man. And I told him, 'Coach, you're not going to regret this.' So, you asked me what I would say to him? Man, I'd probably just fall in his arms and give him a hug. There's no words that I can tell him.

"The man passed away without me really, really, really giving him my love and thanks for what he was able to do for me and my family. There's a lot of teams out there that passed on me for wrong reasons. Coach Green gave me that opportunity. So when all you Vikings fans are sitting up here, going back in the past, remembering the teams that I played on ... man, however you feel about me, you can feel. But if you feel a good way about me, Coach Green brought me here. And whatever talents I was able to showcase, he helped me do that. You see how emotional I am about him? I'm very thankful to have crossed paths with Coach Green."

Moss, who now works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, ranks second in Vikings history with 9,316 receiving yards and 92 touchdown catches. He reached five Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons with the Vikings, but was traded to the Oakland Raiders before the 2005 season, and his short-lived return to the team in 2010 ended with Moss being waived a day after he criticized coach Brad Childress and the team following a loss to the New England Patriots.

The Vikings involved Moss in their pregame ceremonies before their second home game at U.S. Bank Stadium last year. And when Moss was in town for business meetings related to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis next February, the team surprised him by telling him he would join the Ring of Honor.

"I walked down the hallway [in the team's offices]; I'm looking at [Mick] Tingelhoff, I'm looking at [Cris] Carter, I'm looking at [Chris] Doleman," Moss said. "I know my history, I know my players to be able to see them. So when I come out of a meeting, I didn't see my jersey on that wall [before].

"So when I come out, I'm like, 'Hold on, wait a minute -- did y'all just put this up here?' I'm speechless. I don't know what to say, but the one thing I will tell you is, the love, the passion I put into this game ... to some, it might have been arrogance. But to me, I was just focused, because I always wanted to play the game of football."

The Vikings announced both Moss and Ahmad Rashad, who played for the team from 1976 to '82, will be inducted into their Ring of Honor this season, joining 21 other former players. The two receivers will be the first players to join the Ring of Honor since the team's final season at the Metrodome in 2013.

Moss will also be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, when electors debate his candidacy during Super Bowl weekend in Minneapolis.

Moss said it would be special to reach the Hall of Fame in Minnesota during his first year of eligibility. Receiver Terrell Owens was denied entry during his first year of eligibility, however, so Moss could have to overcome a difficult precedent, while also answering for the more controversial aspects of his career, such as his 2002 arrest for bumping a Minneapolis traffic officer with his car.

He made efforts to do so Wednesday, saying he needed to be more aware of the business aspects of football when he was traded and praising the Wilf family for helping U.S. Bank Stadium to be built last year.

He also referenced the "I play when I want to play" comment he made in the fall of 2001, saying he should have done more to clarify what he meant at the time.

"I think that was just mixed up over the years," Moss said. "As you mature, you grow, and I think that I really should have spoke about it, what I really meant. But that's in the past. I love the game so much. I sacrificed so much. I really honestly think I got traded out of here because I only cared about the game of football.

"I know that sounds weird, but I didn't do anything outside of the game of football. I didn't go anywhere. I didn't like to mingle a lot. I only cared about football, and I think that was one of my worst attributes, trying to branch outside of the game of football. But hey, that's all I knew. That's what I grew up believing. And to this day, I still carry that same chip [on my shoulder]."