Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cleats On, Cleats Off: NFL Retiree Update

A little over a month ago, Naptime Huddle played tribute to some high-profile players who had announced their retirement, and advised you of additional players we might see on the golf course come September.  Today, I thought I’d update you on a few more stars who have decided to hang up their cleats, and one more who has decided to take his off the peg.

New Retirements:

Kris Dielman (Guard, San Diego Chargers, 2003-2011):  Kris Dielman, who played guard for the San Diego Chargers for nine years, announced his retirement on March 1st.  Dielman was an undrafted free agent out of Indiana University, where he played as a defensive lineman and tight end.  He drove to San Diego’s training camp on a wing and a prayer, with a career in concrete laboring as a fallback.  However, he impressed the Chargers coaching staff and then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer handed him the team’s book for offensive linemen and told him, “You’re a guard now.”  Kris learned his new position while on the team’s practice squad and then on the kickoff unit.  He became starting left guard early in 2005 when he replaced an injured Toniu Fonoti.  As you might remember from my profile on him in our “Stars and Legends” installment on offensive linemen, Dielman was selected to four Pro Bowls, twice as a starter, and was part of the offensive line that led running back LaDainian Tomlinson to set a new single-season rushing record.
Dielman (center) chillin' on game day with center Scott Mruczkowski (#63) and tackle Marcus McNeill (#73)

Chris Hoke (Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001-2011):  Hoke, who attended Brigham Young University, announced his retirement on January 25th.  His retirement comes after undergoing season-ending neck surgery after only playing six games in 2011.  Joining Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Hoke was a career backup and didn’t get much playing time until 2004 when he took over for injured nose guard Casey Hampton (who had been drafted by the Steelers in 2001).  He had his best stats that year, recording 27 tackles and one sack.  Spending his entire career with the Steelers, Hoke was part of two championship teams (playing in three Super Bowls).

New Un-Retirement:  Randy Moss

To say that Randy Moss has had a turbulent career would be an understatement.  He burst onto the professional scene in 1998 when he first took the field for the Minnesota Vikings.  In his first game, Moss caught four passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.  This dazzling performance confirmed the Vikings’ drafting of Moss with the 21st overall pick of the 1998 draft, despite the baggage he brought with him in the form of some well-known legal troubles.  At the end of the season, Moss was named to the Pro Bowl and won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. 

He continued to post impressive numbers in Minnesota for seven years, though his tenure as a Viking was not without controversy.  There were accusations by teammates that Randy was known to “take off” certain plays when he knew he wasn’t intended to be the primary receiver.  In a working-class, blue-collar community like Minneapolis, that didn’t resonate well with fans.  The criticism reached a high point when he walked off the field with two seconds remaining in the last game of the ’04 season against the Washington Redskins; the Vikings were trailing by three points and he didn’t think they would recover the onside kick.  Randy ruffled more feathers by pretending to moon Green Bay Packer fans after catching his second touchdown pass in the NFC Wildcard Game in January 2005.* 

After being hampered by injury during the 2004 season, Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders.  He only spent one season in Oakland, where accusations regarding his work ethic continued to dog him, before being traded to the New England Patriots through a series of 11th-hour draft-eve negotiations and contract acrobatics.  The move to Boston seemed to breathe new life into Randy, who broke the Patriots’ single-season receiving record with 1,493 yards.  His performance helped the Patriots achieve a perfect 16-0 regular season and helped Tom Brady break the record for single-season touchdown passes. 

The pairing with Brady seemed a match made in New England heaven until the week leading up to the 2010 season, when Moss declared that he didn’t feel wanted in New England since he hadn’t received a contract extension offer.  After Week 4, he was traded back to his first team, the Vikings.  Unfortunately, Randy didn’t have enough political capital to get away with some derisive comments he made about his new coaches, teammates, and a local caterer.  He managed to land in Nashville, playing out the season with the Tennessee Titans.  After such a turbulent and colorful career, is it any wonder that Randy Moss is a favorite subject of rap artists (as noted in my friend Gary’s guest post on football and hip-hop)?

 Here's a nice look at Randy's career put together by DJ Steve Porter:

Moss, through his agent, announced his retirement in August of 2011.  However, on February 13, 2012, he announced that he was making a return to football; he said that his retirement decision had been made for “personal reasons outside of football.”  There was no lack of interest in Moss; the New Orleans Saints gave him an opportunity to work out for their scouts and coaching staff.  Witnesses said he looked like “the old Randy,” running the 40-yard dash in between 4.39 and 4.44 seconds, an impressive time at any age, much less thirty-five.

In his workout with the San Francisco 49ers, Moss fielded passes from Niners head coach, and former quarterback, Jim Harbaugh (who had picked Moss up at the airport!).  Both sides seem downright giddy over the one-year deal, the terms of which have not been disclosed.  How long will the Harbaugh-Moss honeymoon last?  Has Randy put the days of “mooning” opposing fans, er, behind him?  Only time will tell… 

*Even though this was a classless act, it would be unfair not to point out that the Packers fans are known for mooning losing opponents as they leave Lambeau Field, and it is this "tradition" that Moss was mimicing.

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