The first practice of training camp began with a moment of silence in honor of Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer, who died of complications following severe heat stroke on a day in which, as Sports Illustrated so accurately and poignantly observed, nearby farmers were bringing their cattle inside to get them out of the oppressive heat. For those who were there, the days literally blurred together. For many younger players, it was their first brush with losing someone close to them and the suppressed numbness boiled over when frayed nerves fractured in Chicago, and the Vikings of the Dennis Green era was nearing its final days. Monday had a somber element because, not only did the team pay honor to the memory of Stringer on the 10th anniversary of his death, but to an era of Vikings football that died with him.
While the mood was reflective at the start of practice and during talks afterwards, the news earlier in the day that Randy Moss was retiring changed the dynamic of the day, because it got some forward-thinkers buzzing overtime.
If, in fact, the word of Moss' agent can be taken as the last word, it could set up an extremely interested scenario five years down the line. Whether the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame liked him or not, it is impossible to deny that, from his rookie season until he went to Oakland – a seven-year span of his career – Moss was viewed as the preeminent wide receiver in the game. After being exposed to the toxin that was the Raiders offense, Moss' numbers plummeted, as did his interest in the game. It seemed like his career was going to be cut short by disinterest.
However, when motivated, Moss proved 10 years into his career just how dominant he was, shattering records along the way to the first perfect 16-0 season in the 16-game era of the game and, if not for a miraculous late comeback, Moss would have caught the touchdown that sealed the deal on a 19-0 season. A full decade after his rookie splash, he showed he was still dominant and a clear first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Which helped make Monday so interesting. If Moss is retired, he would join Brett Favre, who, by all accounts, doesn't have "the itch" that typically afflicted him about mid-July the last few years. If the all-time NFL ironman doesn't come back, he will be up for the Hall of Fame five years from now as well – the same as Moss.
As the superstitious will tell you, these things always come in threes. Consider this: Terrell Owens suffered a pretty significant knee injury during the lockout and it's unlikely anyone is going to sign him given the mercenary nature of any signing that would potentially take place. For all intents, T.O. is done, which would make him eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years. Given that he began his career in the expansive shadow of the greatest wide receiver to ever step on a football field (Jerry Rice), the fact T.O. stepped out and made himself one of the most polarizing players of his era – some loved him, some hated him, but everyone had a reaction – it seems hard to imagine him being shelved in his first year of eligibility.
Do you smell what we're cooking here? If all things stay as they are, in 2016, Hall of Fame voters will be presented with a ballot that will have Brett Favre, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens on it. Yikes! How do you say "no" to any of them? Which would lead to one of the most chaotic scenes in the history of the NFL.
To use a soon-to-be worn out phrase, the chance of Favre, Moss and Owens "taking their talents to South Canton" is not only possible, it's probable. The question then becomes, "Can Canton hold them?" That may be a question the NFL should start pondering now.
Canton typically gets a lot of fans showing up, but this one could be epic, because if you were to make a Mount Rushmore of the most media-obsessed football players in the last decade, you've got everyone but Teddy Roosevelt lined up and ready to go. What will make this particular HOF class so memorable wouldn't be that they went at the same time, which is truly sick! What will make this a "time-capsule day" is the induction speeches.
Here's how I see it playing out after tinkering with the Football Fast-Forward Machine to vault me into the first week of August 2016. Moss comes on first and lists all the people that didn't appreciate him over the years. He came into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder and left with the chip the same general size and shape. I had a chance to talk to him one-on-one several times and learned early on that he felt disenfranchised from very early on in life and has always felt that he has been unfairly singled out. He has a point.
When Moss would have a minor run-in with the law, he would be clumped together with former players busted for cocaine, gang affiliations or incidents involving guns. Perhaps seeing a different side of Moss (the one who insisted on not having hospital visits to dying children publicized), I might be viewed as a Moss apologist. Guilty as charged. He is the greatest athlete I have ever seen – regardless of position – and, whether I like him or not, I will respect his athleticism until the day he dies. My dad told me liking someone is less important than respecting someone.
Which brings us to T.O. His speech, in many ways, will likely mirror that of Moss. However, he will point out the quarterbacks that he made famous and how, had they stuck with him, they would be in the same boat as Steve Young, who can flash his Super Bowl ring to beat lines at exclusive clubs. The biggest difference will be in duration. Moss will get his venom (and praise) out in a matter of five minutes and be looking at his watch to see when he can go back to his retirement compound. Owens will drone on for 30 minutes.
Which brings us to Favre. The first question I ever asked Brett Favre in a group setting was pretty simple: "You've had a couple of days to get to know your new teammates. Is it strange to be teammates with guys who have tried to take you out?" Most players would have given an answer from Pile A of the pat answers high-profile players are given by spin doctors on the payroll. Favre gave a four-minute, 17-second answer to that question – and he talks slow, which is even better for writers trying to keep up on their transcriptions. Favre will thank everyone from the guys at Bubba's Beef-n-Booze to every coach and teammate that helped him along the way. It could take 90 minutes. Given Brett's penchant for enjoying the bright lights of media attention in the middle ring of the circus, London bookmakers should open the prop-bet line at 51 minutes – it's up to you whether you take the over or the under.
I want to be there. Millions of others will share my opinion. By the time 2016 rolls around, Brett will have been welcomed back like the wayward son to the Packers family. Every overweight Packers fan with a stretched and faded No. 4 jersey will say, "I've never been to the Hall of Fame. Let's go and watch Brett go in." The Vikings will certainly try to get Moss to go in as a Viking. If he does, like Packers fans everywhere, Vikings fans would be of similar mindset. Throw in the staunch fans T.O. has earned over the years and Canton may become the next Woodstock.
Cars will be abandoned on clogged highways. Cold Aquafina will go for $20 a bottle. It will be chaos. At the same time, it would be fun … and I want to be there.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.