Bill Belichick: 'Combination of factors'
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Randy Moss spoke of each other in reverential terms in separate news conferences Thursday. But both were vague about the circumstances that led to the receiver's trade from New England to Minnesota on Wednesday.
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While Belichick was not forthcoming about the reasons for the trade -- saying only there was "a combination of factors" that went into the decision -- he did rule out discipline problems and contract issues as factors. Moss is in the final year of his contract and had been vocal about his displeasure with that status.
"There was never any incident or discipline problem with Randy, there never has been one with me in four years," Belichick said during a news conference addressing the deal. "It certainly wasn't about contract and money, I think Randy showed and proved from the first year he was here what that was all about. He [re-did] his contract and made the whole [trade from Oakland] work. I think you can eliminate those two things."
Moss said he wasn't hurt by the trade. He called it an "understanding" that had everything to do with the business of football.
"I've been traded before. I was more hurt when I left [Minnesota the first time]," Moss said. "I think when I got traded from New England I feel it was more of an understanding. I've said time and time again. This is not football, man. It's a job; it's a business. When the fans of the game understand the business of the game I think it'll be better for everyone."
What is still unclear is whether Moss requested a trade, something New England receiver Wes Welker alluded to when asked Thursday about reports that Moss wanted out.
"I think that was kind of the difficult thing, just because he was the guy giving the pep talks before games and halftime, and after the game," Welker said. "Not knowing he wanted to be traded the whole time was a little bit disappointing. At the same time, he's doing what's best for him. It's a business. You just have to roll with it."
Asked whether it was his understanding that Moss wanted to be dealt, Welker said: "I don't know. You'd have to ask Coach Belichick. I'm hearing the same rumors you all do. I'm not exactly positive."
Moss posed the question to himself during his news conference and his answer was no more illuminating.
"Did I want to get traded out of New England? I don't really know what the answer is," Moss said. "All I can say is that there's no other place I'd rather get traded to besides Minnesota."
Belichick and Moss had a conversation on Wednesday morning when the trade was consummated, but neither would divulge what was said.
Belichick called Moss "a pleasure to coach" and wished him "the absolute best" going forward.
"When I spoke with Randy yesterday morning, the conversations were consistent with what they've been for the last four years: honest, open, very forthright," Belichick said. "We talked about a lot of things that I'll keep between Randy and myself. In the end, it was a difficult decision, but one that I feel is in the best interest of the football team.
"Our team, organizationally, we've had conversations and obviously are comfortable with the trade. We wish Randy the absolute best. He's been a player I've had a good relationship with. He's very honest, when I've asked him questions about football and personnel and things like that. He's been very helpful to me personally. He's been very professional and I think a good teammate and a good contributing member of this team.
"But in the end, that was the decision. I have confidence in our players, that if they continue to work hard and improve that we'll be competitive and be able to win games. That's what we're here to do -- win games. We've won more games than any other team in the last decade. Hopefully we'll continue to win them going forward. That's what we're here for."
Moss had verbal bouquets of his own for Belichick and the Patriots.
"The respect that I have for him as a coach and as a man speaks high volumes, because Bill is the one that brought me to New England from Oakland," Moss said. "I commended him and thanked him for that because me being in New England, that was something special. I have never been a part of a team. That's all I ever wanted to do was be a part of a team. They're a team.
"Now that I'm gone I'm not going to say anything negative and I'm not going to bash the organization because they gave me the opportunity to play when nobody else thought I could play at a high level. Whatever me and Coach talked about, I want to keep that between the two of us. I wish him the best."
Randy really knows how I feel about him. I love him, as a guy, as a person, as a player. He did a lot of great things for this team. At the same time I think coach Belichick feels that's what he thinks he needs to do for the team. We as players, we deal with it and we move on. I think I've been around long enough to realize nothing really surprises me and the best thing that I can do is be the best quarterback that I can be for the team.” -- Tom Brady on Randy Moss trade
Belichick denied a report Moss had refused to speak with him on the plane ride back after Monday night's victory over the Miami Dolphins.
"Absolutely not true. Total fabrication. I didn't talk to Randy on the plane," Belichick said.
Belichick did not specifically address an ESPNBoston.com report that Moss and quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien had a verbal confrontation during halftime of Monday night's game.
Tom Brady has been an unabashed supporter of Moss during his time in New England. The two also had adjacent lockers in the Patriots' locker room.
"Randy really knows how I feel about him," Brady said in an interview posted on Patriots.com. "I love him, as a guy, as a person, as a player. He did a lot of great things for this team. At the same time I think coach Belichick feels that's what he thinks he needs to do for the team.
"We as players, we deal with it and we move on. I think I've been around long enough to realize nothing really surprises me and the best thing that I can do is be the best quarterback that I can be for the team."
When asked by a reporter whether Brady had any input in the decision to trade Moss, Belichick kept his answer short and to the point.
"Tom doesn't make personnel decisions," Belichick said.
Did Brady lobby on Moss' behalf?
"Tom's a player," Belichick said.
Most Patriots players reacting to the trade news on Thursday said they understood the business reasons for the deal but were disappointed to see Moss go. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork got emotional when talking about Moss.
"It's a business. That's how you have to look at it," Wilfork said. "I mean, I was very fortunate to play with a guy like Randy and have a chance to know him as a person, not just an athlete. Great person, great athlete, but probably one of the greatest guys you'll ever meet. The game. His personality. How he approaches the game. Business. It's a classic case of business. It happens all the time.
"We're going to keep rolling. I'm pretty sure Randy is going to do what he has to do in Minnesota. One thing is for sure -- we're friends forever. So I'll talk to him, he'll talk to me. Just because we're on the other side doesn't mean a thing. I want to beat him when we face him. I do want to beat him. From a personal standpoint, good guy. That's business."
Patriots outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said he understood the business reasons behind the trade.
"We all personally love him, love him to death," Banta-Cain said. "A business decision had to be made and we have no control. We just move on and go about our business."
Asked if he has gained an understanding as to why the trade was made, Banta-Cain said he wasn't in a place to speak on the topic.
"It's between him and the organization," he said. "I just come here to play football and do my job. Hopefully it all works out for him and works out for us."
Asked whether he thought the trade would shake the foundation of the team, Banta-Cain expressed confidence that it would not.
"I think we're confident with the guys that are here," he said. "We have a big game coming up against Baltimore and it's a good thing this happened now as opposed to leading into the week. We had a good day of practice today. We'll just try to keep building on the confidence we have already."
Moss was equally complimentary about his former teammates.
"[The Vikings] go [to New England] in a few weeks [to play the Patriots]," Moss said. "One thing [Belichick] did share with me was he wished me the best except for that game right there. I look forward to facing those guys on the 31st of October.
"I still got love for [the Patriots], I really do man. It's something that I'll never forget. We did some magical things up there but the show must go on. It is a business and I think that's what a lot of people have to understand, the business side of football."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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