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Green Gathers Moss

Dennis Green and Randy Moss together. Why of course, it figured.

Twenty teams passed on Marshall wide receiver Moss, the premier offensive scoring threat in Saturday’s NFL draft, because of his off-the-field behavior, and then Green stepped forward for Minnesota, predicting it as far back as last November, he said, and proclaiming, “We think his life is ahead of him.”

No kidding. If it wasn’t, now that would be a story.

“The glass is full,” continued Green, but of what he did not say.

Green, the author of “No Room For Crybabies,” went against the assessment of most NFL teams and opened his locker room to Moss with unbridled joy. “That’s been our philosophy; we’ll take the best player available.”

Even if there’s a possibility some day that he will need a weekend furlough to play for the Vikings?

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“We have no doubts about Randy Moss,” Green said. “We will team him up with Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith and Andrew Glover and we will have the most potent offense in the National Football League. That’s why we drafted him.”

Green, his own past pockmarked with accusations of sexual harassment and legal difficulties surrounding alleged payments for an abortion for his mistress, signed Moss’ older brother, Eric, an offensive tackle from Ohio State last November. Most people predicted Eric Moss would last longer in Minnesota than Green after it appeared Green was about to be fired, but somehow he survived.

Unbelievably--and why would he lie?--Green said he figured last November that he would land Moss in this draft, his very own explanation on ESPN shortly after Minnesota’s selection a telling indictment of what a risky move it is.

“Last November I thought it could be, regardless if we were picking 30 or farther down, that we would get the player,” said Green, suggesting no other team in the league would touch him.

The Dallas Cowboys passed on Moss, and they are experts at stockpiling bad characters. Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson traded his 19th pick to Green Bay for the 29th selection in Round 1 before Saturday’s festivities, and said later, “We wouldn’t have taken Moss if he had been there at No. 19.”

The Oakland Raiders passed on Moss, and wouldn’t that have been a matchup made in heaven? Tennessee took a wide receiver at No. 16 in Utah’s Kevin Dyson who scored 23 fewer touchdowns than Moss last season.

Moss earned probation after assaulting a fellow student in high school and then served jail time after a probation violation for using marijuana before going on to play at Marshall. Charges were never pressed against him at Marshall after he was arrested for a domestic dispute with the mother of his child, but some NFL people suggested there might be other problems that had slipped by unnoticed.

“As far as I know, I haven’t seen any policemen in my face,” Moss said Saturday. “As of right now, my nose has been clean.”

Author Tom Clancy, still needing NFL approval to become the owner of the Vikings, reportedly had no idea of Vikings’ selection of Moss until after it was announced. At the very least he might have a new model for the next villain to challenge Jack Ryan, the main character in his novels.

“Coach [Green] took a lot of heat for this, but he just caught a steal,” said Moss, who caught 53 touchdown passes in his two-year Marshall career.

The Vikings passed on defensive lineman Warren Sapp two years ago because of character concerns, and Sapp went on to Tampa Bay, earned Pro Bowl honors and a huge contract this off-season.

“Keep in mind, all the Warren Sapp information came the day before the draft and the day of the draft,” Green said. “People knew very little about what was going on with Warren Sapp and you had to make a decision very quickly on not much information.

“We’ve known about Randy Moss for two years. We’re not going to get caught up in what happened to an 18-year-old man in a high school in West Virginia.”

Green said he has talked to Moss’ brother, and has the support system in place to steer Moss in the proper direction. Carter, an ordained minister, overcame alcohol problems that ended his stay in Philadelphia.

“I don’t think I need no influences,” Moss told Minnesota reporters. “I just need some guidance from the older guys. I don’t think my character problem is a big issue.”

Obviously, it’s not the first time he has been wrong. It was the biggest issue in the first round of an otherwise uneventful draft.

Indianapolis General Manager Bill Polian fibbed Friday night when telling ESPN commentator Mark Malone that the Colts still remained undecided between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, having already called Manning, the Tennessee quarterback, to advise him he would be the first pick in the draft.

“I know how to keep a secret,” said Manning, who will wear No. 18, the number worn by his father, Archie, while playing at the University of Mississippi.

The Colts promptly announced that Manning would become their starting quarterback. “We’ll stick him into the mix right away,” said Coach Jim Mora, who had Manning throw in practice as a high school youngster when Mora was coaching the Saints. “We’re not going to go slow.”

The Chargers took Leaf, the Washington State quarterback, and without surprise Arizona followed with Florida State defensive end Andre Wadsworth and Oakland took Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson.

San Diego said it will be looking for a veteran quarterback when teams such as Seattle and Baltimore set John Friesz and Vinny Testaverde free after June 1 for salary cap considerations. The Chargers expressed caution in rushing Leaf, considered less mature than Manning, into action, but they remained thrilled at the prospect of having so much potential on their roster.

“I’d like to introduce our No. 1 guy,” Charger owner Alex Spanos gushed. “God, Ryan, just come up here, son. Let me just look at you.”

The Chargers, so excited about their new quarterback, flew reporters from the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times on the team’s private plane to New York for the draft and then on to Las Vegas to celebrate with the Leaf family before returning to San Diego today for a news conference.

“It would be a scary thing what the future would be without him,” General Manager Bobby Beathard said.

Leaf, like John Elway 15 years ago, had made it clear that he did not want to play for the Colts, preferring to go No. 2 to San Diego.

“I would have been fine going to play for Indianapolis, but I really wanted to play for the Chargers,” he said. “Sure enough, Indianapolis came through and picked Peyton, and I was able to come to the city I wanted to, the city that has supported me so well the past month already. I’m really anxious to see what goes on.”

ESPN, meanwhile, continued to report that the Raiders were working hard to use some of their three No. 2 picks to trade up and grab Moss, but Oakland couldn’t find any takers until Tampa Bay bit at No. 23--two selections after Minnesota had nabbed Moss.

The Raiders, successful in their Bay Area espionage, selected Florida offensive tackle Mo Collins, the player San Francisco wanted so badly five picks later at No. 28.

The only other first-round trade was made by Miami’s Jimmy Johnson before the draft began, sending the 19th selection to Green Bay at No. 29 for a second-round pick, allowing the Packers to emerge the big winner in the draft, filling a gaping hole at defensive tackle with North Carolina’s Vonnie Holliday.

The draft, which will pick up today with Round 4 and conclude after seven rounds, ended with Pittsburgh taking Hines Ward, a wide receiver from Georgia, just after Denver landed a potential long-range replacement for Elway in Michigan quarterback Brian Griese.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

ROUND ONE AT A GLANCE

1. Indianapolis

Peyton Manning QB 6-5 230 Tennessee

89 TDs and 33 interceptions for Volunteers

A perfect fit: His father never played for a team to finish better than .500

2. San Diego

Ryan Leaf QB 6-5 234 Washington State

Weighed 268 in February; 235 on Saturday

When you fall behind, you have to have somebody to throw the ball

3. Arizona

Andre Wadsworth DE 6-3 278 Florida State

Led ACC senior year with 16 sacks

Could it be? Cardinals haven’t been to playoffs since ’82

4. Oakland

Charles Woodson CB 6-0 198 Michigan

Also played WR, returned kicks, punts

Imagine how many interceptions if he could play against Jeff George

5. Chicago

Curtis Enis RB 6-0 242 Penn State

A plodding 4.54 in the 40

Bears announce Rashaan Salaam will now play quarterback

6. St. Louis

Grant Wistrom DE 6-4 257 Nebraska

Lombardi Award winner with 58 1/2 tackles for losses

Georgia Frontiere wanted someone to tackle Lawrence Phillips

7. New Orleans

Kyle Turley OT 6-4 309 San Diego State

Gave up two sacks in pass-oriented attack

They’ve found a guy who won’t cry after being berated by Mike Ditka

8. Dallas

Greg Ellis DE 6-5 271 North Carolina

School record 32 1/2 sacks

Jerry Jones is no Jimmy Johnson and Cowboys are no longer champions

9. Jacksonville

Fred Taylor RB 6-0 226 Florida

Gators 14-0 when he ran for more than 100 yards

If Taylor is rookie of the year, Jaguars go on to Super Bowl

10. Baltimore

Duane Starks CB 5-10 170 Miami

One of nation’s fastest players at 4.34

This is what happens when someone allows Art Modell to call the shots

11. Philadelphia

Tra Thomas OT 6-8 349 Florida State

Jacob Trophy winner as top ACC blocker

There’s no quit or insight in these guys, who pick sixth offensive linemen in ‘90s

12. Atlanta

Keith Brooking LB 6-2 244 Georgia Tech

Led team in tackles three years in row

Falcons get future Pro Bowl player and hometown hero

13. Cincinnati

Takeo Spikes LB 6-1 234 Auburn

Butkus Award semifinalist

One of worst defenses in league upgraded; now will only be bad

14. Carolina

Jason Peter DT 6-5 288 Nebraska

Controversial brother Christian now with Giants

An inside partner for Sean Gilbert in push to finish second to 49ers again

15. Seattle

Anthony Simmons LB 6-0 231 Clemson

Averaged one tackle for a loss a game

Luckiest pick in draft; he can find out how deep Paul Allen’s pockets are

16. Tennessee

Kevin Dyson WR 6-1 199 Utah

Only two touchdown catches in senior season

He’s no Randy Moss, which explains why the Oilers grabbed him

17. Cincinnati

Brian Simmons LB 6-3 238 North Carolina

8 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions in career

Another linebacker for Bengals in case the first one they took is a bust

18. New England

Robert Edwards RB 6-2 208 Georgia

Scored 27 touchdowns in 22 games

For every touchdown scored against the Jets, he’ll get a bonus

19. Green Bay

Vonnie Holliday DT 6-4 292 North Carolina

Began career as linebacker, added 50 pounds

Trade fills gaping hole; no comment from Reggie White, thank heavens

20. Detroit

Terry Fair CB 5-9 181 Tennessee

Averaged 14.1 yards as explosive punt returner

Somewhere today Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is licking his lips

21. Minnesota

Randy Moss WR 6-5 211 Marshall

53 touchdowns broke school record of 26

After listening to Dennis Green, Vikings considering Moss for sainthood

22. New England

Tebucky Jones DB 6-1 214 Syracuse

Switched from tailback to safety senior year

Passed on UCLA’s Shaun Williams; final verdict in a few years

23. Oakland

Mo Collins OT 6-4 337 Florida

Gave up one sack in 660 plays for a passing team

Trade with Tampa Bay to steal the guy the 49ers wanted

24. New York Giants

Shaun Williams S 6-1 211 UCLA

9 tips, 3 interceptions, 3 fumbles recovered

More defense gives Giants great chance to play everyone to a 0-0 tie

25. Jacksonville

Donovin Darius S 6-0 211 Syracuse

Long snapper for punts, a sluggish 4.59 40

Travis Davis and Chris Hudson present starters; that explains it

26. Pittsburgh

Alan Faneca G 6-4 322 Louisiana State

Right guard, who has also played right tackle

In four years, he’ll be free agent and go elsewhere like every other Steeler

27. Kansas City

Victor Riley OT 6-4 333 Auburn

Left tackle as senior, guard as junior

Schottenheimer passes on RB for fear it might take him to Super Bowl

28. San Francisco

R.W. McQuarters CB 5-10 193 Oklahoma State

Started at wide receiver and cornerback

Signing a limping Rod Woodson didn’t work last year

29. Miami

John Avery RB 5-9 184 Mississippi

Averaged 5.5 a carry, 33.7 returning kicks

JJ lets world know how he feels about Abdul-Jabbar, Phillips

30. Denver

Marcus Nash WR 6-3 193 Tennessee

Set three school receiving records in final season

Just what the No. 1 offense in the league needs: more firepower

First Round by Conference

SEC: 10

ACC: 7

Big Ten: 3

Big East: 3

Pac-10: 2

Big 12: 2

WAC: 2

MAC: 1

First Round by Position

Defensive Backs: 7

Defensive Linemen: 5

Offensive Linemen: 5

Running Backs: 4

Linebackers: 4

Wide Receivers: 3

Quarterbacks: 2

TOP PICK BY POSITION

Quarterback: 20

Running back: 12

Halfback: 9

Defensive tackle: 6

Defensive end: 5

End: 4

Linebacker: 3

Wide receiver: 2

Tackle: 2

Center: 2

Fullback: 2

Guard: 1

Defensive back: 1

TOP PICK BY SCHOOL

Notre Dame: 5

USC: 4

Auburn: 4

Ohio State: 3

Stanford: 3

Texas: 3

Georgia: 3

Miami: 2

Illinois: 2

Nebraska: 2

Oklahoma: 2

Penn State: 1

Washington State: 1

Washington: 1

UCLA: 1

Virginia Tech: 1

South Carolina: 1

California: 1

Tennessee: 1

Tennessee State: 1

Tampa: 1

Louisiana Tech: 1

Michigan State: 1

Baylor: 1

Texas Tech: 1

Boston College: 1

Oregon State: 1

Grambling: 1

Syracuse: 1

North Carolina St.: 1

Tulane: 1

Louisiana State: 1

Iowa: 1

Rice: 1

Colorado A&M;: 1

Oregon: 1

Vanderbilt: 1

SMU: 1

Penn: 1

Alabama: 1

Oklahoma A&M;: 1

Virginia: 1

Michigan: 1

Tennessee: 1

TCU: 1

Indiana: 1

Chicago: 1


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