PHOENIX (Reuters) - Saddled with a history of legal troubles and a questionable attitude, Randy Moss seemed like a terrible fit for the New England Patriots.
He has emerged, however, as an indispensable part of the league’s best team.
The controversial receiver had a record 23 touchdowns among his 98 receptions during his first year with the unbeaten Patriots, numbers that astonished even Moss himself.
While Moss is excited to be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the New York Giants, he is content just being part of a winning environment.
“I’m excited to be here,” Moss told reporters on Wednesday. “But I think the overall atmosphere in the locker room, the guys being able to come together and embracing me makes me most happy.
“With all the talk about me coming into the season, what I really wanted to do was come out and have a good year. I didn’t care too much about my statistics.”
The 30-year-old Moss has always been one of the league’s most talented receivers but his ability has often been overshadowed by controversy.
He spent seven years in Minnesota and two more in Oakland putting up fantastic numbers but always dogged by conflict. Moss left the field early in a Vikings loss to the Redskins and another time squirted a referee with a water bottle.
Throw in his admitted use of marijuana and several run-ins with the law, including a temporary injunction for protection two weeks ago by a woman alleging “dating violence,” and you have a player few thought would be coveted by the squeaky-clean Patriots.
The Raiders had given up on Moss, demanding only a fourth-round draft pick for the temperamental six-times Pro Bowl receiver.
Moss’s disposition seemed to change with the trade.
“Whoever comes to the New England Patriots, you know that there’s something better than that individual,” said New England linebacker Junior Seau. “He’s going to have to convert if there’s anything that’s negative.
“That’s what’s so good about this system. It breeds success.”
Facing double and sometimes triple coverage, Moss has just a pair of catches in the Patriots’ two playoff games.
Quarterback Tom Brady, however, is convinced he will play a huge role on Sunday.
“Randy is going to have an impact on this game whether he catches the ball or he doesn’t,” he said. “If he’s open, he’s getting the ball. If they are covering him with two guys, you’ve got to throw the ball other places.”
Moss can become a free agent at the end of the season, a scenario that gives Brady nightmares.
“Randy and I are package deals,” said Brady. “I don’t want Randy going anywhere. I’m going wherever he’s going. I want to play with him for as long as he continues playing.”
Editing by Rex Gowar