- Associated Press - Sunday, November 7, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Larry Fitzgerald Jr. had been eagerly anticipating the second game of his career in the Metrodome, perhaps even more than the first one back in his home state of Minnesota.

Fitzgerald couldn’t wait to see his friend Randy Moss in purple again, playing under the big white roof where he electrified fans the first seven years of his NFL career.

Fitzgerald, a prep standout at the Academy of the Holy Angels in suburban Minneapolis, was a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings when Moss arrived in 1998. Moss and Fitzgerald quickly became good friends, with the superstar deep threat showing the up-and-comer some tricks of the trade.

Fitzgerald put those lessons to good use in college at Pittsburgh and with the Arizona Cardinals since 2004.

Alas, there will be no reunion when the Cardinals visit the Vikings on Sunday.

Vikings coach Brad Childress cut Moss last Monday, just four games after the team acquired him from the Patriots for a third-round draft pick.

“I’m biased a little bit because I know Randy personally,” Fitzgerald said. “I was a little sad to see him go. I was looking forward to catching up with him this weekend. That’s the NFL. It’s always changing. Nothing stays the same.”

The swift decision surprised most everyone in Minnesota and has turned up the heat on Childress, who has never been a fan favorite in these parts despite winning the last two NFC North titles and taking the Vikings to the NFC title game last season.

Moss wasn’t terribly productive in his return to Minnesota, but did open things up for Percy Harvin over the middle. But the Vikings lost three of the four games they played with Moss, and the receiver’s notoriously poor attitude showed up toward the end of his second run with the Vikings.

Sitting at 2-5, Moss didn’t give the Vikings the boost in the win column they had hoped for, and now they find themselves right back where they started _ with a receiver corps that lacks a proven deep threat.

“We’re back to where we were four weeks ago,” Brett Favre said. “The fact is, 1-3 over the last four games, is not what we had hoped for. Not one man’s to blame. It’s a collective effort.”

With Kurt Warner in the analyst’s booth after retirement and Anquan Boldin playing in Baltimore, the Cardinals (3-4) haven’t been able to get off the ground this season. They rank 30th in the NFL in passing offense and have rotated Max Hall and Derek Anderson at quarterback, with neither one even a shadow of the accurate, quick-trigger leader that Warner was.

“We haven’t gotten the play out of that position that we have needed thus far into the season,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That has been a contributing factor as to why our record is where it is.”

Steve Breaston missed three games with knee surgery, allowing opposing defenses to focus solely on stopping Fitzgerald. He was asked whether the Cardinals should have brought his buddy Moss into the mix to spice up the lifeless passing game.

“To have a player of his caliber would definitely elevate this team and help you,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t know what the Cardinals were going to do but if he were to come I’d welcome him with open arms.”

No such luck, Larry. Arizona passed on its chance to pluck Moss off the waiver wire, and he landed in Tennessee with the Titans.

All is not lost, however. Breaston returned to the lineup last week and caught eight passes for 147 yards in a 38-35 loss to Tampa Bay. Fitzgerald also had his best day of the season, with six catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns, one each from Hall and Anderson.

Whisenhunt is giving Anderson the start this week, hoping the veteran can build off of last week’s performance in which he went 16 for 24 for 234 yards with one TD and two interceptions.

“I know the guys are trying as hard as they can, and with more repetitions we’re going to get better,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s hard to replace a Hall of Famer. You ask anybody that’s lost a Hall of Fame quarterback or a Hall of Fame player period, it’s difficult to replace him.”

The Vikings have a likely Hall of Famer to replace this week. With Moss in Tennessee and more chaos in Minnesota, the Vikings are just trying to get their bearings again.

Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting the season 2-5 and no team has done it starting 2-6, according to STATS LLC.

“This could be a very good storybook ending or it could be a year to forget,” said Favre, who will likely be back under center after getting 10 stitches in his chin after last week’s loss. “Up to this point, it’s been a year to forget but I’m trying to stay optimistic because I know it can easily turn around. Easily.”

One player who will be rooting for them to do just that is Fitzgerald.

“I still pull for them because I know some of the guys,” he said. “I know coach Childress and a lot of the staff, just a lot of people in the building. You want to see them do well. Hopefully they can get it turned around, just not this week.”

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