by Dan Snapp

Original publish date  – August 2nd, 2007

(In light of the resurgence of regurgitation by many in the media of this Randy Moss quote following Sunday’s game against Carolina, we’ve decided to bump this article up from the archives.)

The Globe’s Mike Reiss today repeated the celebrated Randy Moss quote “I play when I want to play” in his rundown on the Patriots receiving competition through the first dozen or so practice sessions. But was it in the right context?

Moss’s remarks were in response to a question about who motivates him to play. Here’s PFW on it:

Minnesota WR Cris Carter on teammate Randy Moss’ remarks that he only plays “when I want to play”: “Some of it, did he mean it? Yes. But some of it did get misconstrued? It was not taken totally out of context, but some of it was asked in the sense of: ‘Does Coach Green get you motivated? Do you like playing on Monday Night Football? Do you like playing the Packers? Does Cris have to get on you to make a play?’ And he said, ‘No, I play when I want to play.'”

This fantastic CityPages article also talks about the incident with proper context:

Most notably, there was the flap over his “I play when I want to play” remark. Ripped from the original context (it came in response to a question of how Moss motivates himself to perform), the wide receiver’s off-the-cuff but fundamentally innocuous answer left talking heads sputtering and howling. They said Moss disgraced the game by failing to give the proverbial 110 percent on every down of every game–even though many other receivers do the same, and the legendary Jerry Rice has admitted he does.

Later in the same piece, it describes how a week later, Moss wasn’t backing down from his original statement:

Last year, a week after the initial furor over the “I play when I want to play” remark, Moss was asked about the quote in a conference call with reporters. Did he want to take it back? Or clarify what he meant? His response: “Hell, no. That shit is what I said.” A second public outcry ensued. But a man from Rand stands by his words. You say what you mean, you mean what you say. It is an anti-image ethic. Whatever else he is, Moss is the antithesis of extremely image-conscious athletes such as his old teammate Cris Carter or, more notably, that most beloved of Minnesota sports icons, Kirby Puckett.

Predictably, Peter King shot first, screw asking questions, later or anytime:

b. You had your chance, Randy Moss, in your interview with Andrea Kremer on ESPN to say you screwed up last year with your I-play-when-I-want-to-play statement. Instead, you said: “It got blown out of context.” Oh. You get the richest contract in NFL history for a wide receiver. You take a chunk of plays in every game off. And you can’t understand why everyone’s so up in arms when you say you play when you damn well feel like it. “When I said that, it might have come out the wrong way,” you told Kremer. Might have? Get a clue, fella.

Why was the onus on Moss to clear things up when the reporters were the ones continually getting the story wrong?

The original quote came from a Nov. 23, 2001 column by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sid Hartman. Here’s another rundown from

Moss was quoted in a Nov. 23 column by Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Sid Hartman as saying, “I play when I want to play. Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not. I just keep doing what I do and that is playing football. When I make my mind up, I am going out there to tear somebody’s head off. When I go out there and play football, man it’s not anybody telling me to play or how I should play. I play when I want to play.”

Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated had a good article on Moss in 2002.

Moss puts one foot on the bench in front of his locker and stares at me. “O.K.,” he says, “shoot.”

I come with this convoluted question-and-a-half: You’re a guy who has said and done a lot of controversial things, and people have formed some strong opinions. Are they getting the right impression of you, and if they aren’t, does that bother you?

“HAY-ell no,” Moss booms in his West Virginia twang. “Why should I worry about what people think? I’ve got everything I need — everything I’ll ever need. It’s not my fault that people don’t know me. Look, I’m going to speak my mind, no matter what the consequences are. The things I do speak might come out different in terms of language, but when I say something, I speak my mind.” The interview lasts a half hour.

We’re not picking on Reiss here by any means. There are few better than Mike. And we’re not suggesting by any means that Moss has simply been a misunderstood choir boy. But would it be fair to say this celebrated quote is rarely put in its proper context?

HAY-ell yes.