THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Moss decides to retire

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By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 2, 2011

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On the field, he did things that made you shake your head. Off the field, he could get the same reaction.

Randy Moss, the preternaturally talented receiver who spent three-plus seasons with the Patriots, has decided to retire after 13 seasons, his agent, Joel Segal, said yesterday.

The decision marks the end of a career that included dozens of highlight-worthy catches, more than a few questionable off-field actions, a cache of colorful quotes, and one word added to the football lexicon: to get “Mossed’’ is to be a cornerback beaten badly by a wideout.

Acquired by the Patriots during a draft-weekend trade with Oakland in 2007, Moss came to New England facing questions that his best days were behind him; his production had fallen off sharply in two years with the Raiders.

But in a conference call with reporters shortly after the trade was announced, Moss declared, “The Moss of old is back.’’

From his first game with the Patriots, he backed up his words. In the ’07 season opener against the Jets in the Meadowlands, he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady between three New York defenders.

After crossing the goal line, Moss put his hands in front of him, palms facing out, and pushed the air between them apart. It was his signal for splitting the defense.

Opposing defenses saw it 22 more times that season, as Moss caught a league-record 23 touchdowns, part of Brady’s record-setting 50-touchdown performance.

It was that season that Moss made his only appearance in the Super Bowl, catching what looked like the winning score before the Giants’ Eli Manning and David Tyree pulled off their miracle escape and top-of-the-helmet catch and Plaxico Burress caught the winning TD pass from Manning.

While Brady asserted that he and Moss had a great relationship, it was clear that it was purely a professional one. And by last year, that had started to show some cracks: Moss is believed to have criticized Brady between the 2009 and ’10 seasons for not spending enough time at the team facility, working out with teammates.

He was at times surly with reporters, but when he wasn’t being disagreeable, Moss could be colorful. After being accused of dogging it during a game in the 2009 season, Moss said after a win in Buffalo the next week, “These shoulders that I have on my body, you could put the Earth on it. Just to let you know, I bounce back.’’

Drafted 21st overall by the Vikings in 1998 out of Marshall, the 6-foot-4-inch Moss made an immediate impact in Minnesota, helping them to a 15-win regular season and an appearance in the NFC title game.

He was traded to Oakland in 2005, and then arrived in New England two years later.

Moss recorded 954 career catches for 14,858 yards, an average of 15.6 yards per catch. His 153 receiving touchdowns rank second all time to Jerry Rice. Moss shares second place with rival Terrell Owens, who derisively referred to Moss as “the other 81’’ before a Cowboys-Patriots showdown in 2007.

Moss and Owens each had six catches and a touchdown that day, but Moss had the last laugh when his team left Dallas with a 48-27 win.

A month into last season he was gone from New England, traded back to the Vikings for a third-round pick. It was perhaps fitting that one of his final touchdowns as a Patriot came against the Jets, and also in eye-popping fashion: this time he beat Darrelle Revis, making a one-handed grab that left even the most seasoned Moss observers shaking their heads.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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