|05-26-2005, 11:28 AM||#1|
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: South of Boston
PFW: It's obviously not the same, but let's celebrate one more year with Jerry Rice
The last stop
It's obviously not the same, but let's celebrate one more year with Jerry Rice
By Trent Modglin (email@example.com)
May 26, 2005
I believe it was Bob Dylan who once said a man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.
When you spend the better part of the last two decades effortlessly catching the football in record fashion and sprinting past awed defenders with a smoothness so rare it’s inspiring, is there any wonder why it’s difficult to stop running when the time comes?
Or is there even any wonder why it’s difficult to recognize when that time actually arrives at all?
Jerry Rice, who is, to many, the best player ever to don shoulder pads, sent word out to the league’s 32 teams not long ago, indicating he desired one more year in the league. Denver, on Wednesday, rewarded him just such an opportunity with a one-year deal, good for what probably will amount to the league minimum.
Rice, heading to his third team in less than a year’s time, is going to turn 43 in October. I know guys who quit playing recreation-league softball 10 years earlier.
According to his friends, he flirts with retirement seemingly every year in January and February, but then he starts working out and gets that bug again. The desire to prove an increasing number of skeptics wrong. The desire to push those half his age.
But how will this tarnish his legacy, this idea of prolonging the inevitable, bouncing from team to team, still a serviceable leader but no longer an electric performer? Doesn’t he know this slippery slope at the downside of a Hall of Fame career can be cumbersome for fans who grew so accustomed to him hauling in passes from Montana and Young, not Hasselbeck and Plummer? Doesn’t he know when we tell our children about him and all his exploits, we want to remember No. 80 in scarlet and gold, Super Bowls and such, not holding on too long, battling for roster spots with players most fans can’t even name?
And that’s what Rice will be doing — battling for a roster spot, considering he’s not exactly going to be contributing on special teams.
"I told Jerry that I don't know if he's lost a step or two steps, but you're going to come here for one reason and that's to compete with the other guys," Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan said. "And if you're one of our top five guys at the end of camp, then you're going to be on our football team. If you're not, I said I'd have one of the toughest jobs in the world."
Can you imagine cutting Jerry Rice? Me neither. But I digress, because I’m of the belief that Rice is doing the right thing. Some of us are being selfish in saying we don’t want him putting a dent in that pedestal we have him perched on. But who are we to speak on his behalf when he remains as passionate about the game he loves as he was coming out of Mississippi Valley State 20 years ago?
It’s him being selfish, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. He’s doing something he relishes, and until someone tells him he can’t, by way of a pink slip in his locker, and he remains in good health, I’ll urge him on like I would any other potential retiree who enjoys what he’s doing for a living.
So, should this move be considered an indictment of the rest of the Broncos’ receiving corps? I don’t think so. The athletic Ashley Lelie came on in his third year to surpass 1,000 yards at a clip of better than 20 yards per catch. The dependable Rod Smith is still plugging along, plenty capable of the tough catch and superb blocking. Darius Watts, a standout performer in training camp, caught 31 passes as a rookie and owns loads of potential. TE Jeb Putzier had a breakout season and was retained in the offseason after the Broncos matched the Jets’ offer for him in free agency.
The Broncos would be fine without the best receiver ever, but I also think he will be more than just a locker-room presence on a winding farewell tour. And it’s obvious the Broncos, and Shanahan, who coached him as the 49ers’ coordinator from 1992 to '94, expect him to be a legitimate contributor on a roster geared to win now, on both sides of the ball.
The cons are plentiful to be sure. No. 80 doesn’t pull away from defenders anymore, can't take a slant pattern to the house, and getting off the line of scrimmage is more of a task than it used to be. It should be noted that the Broncos’ ground-based system has rarely provided many opportunities for No. 3 or 4 wide receivers. If his body does hit the wall, it likely will be for good at his age. You don’t recuperate as quickly in your early 40s. He also would be taking a roster spot from a younger Denver receiver with upside for the future.
But let us not forget all the nuances and lessons in work ethic his new teammates can learn from his mere presence. In splitting time between Oakland and Seattle last year, Rice came up with 30 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns. He started 14 games and played roughly 60 percent of the offensive plays. If he earns a shot with Denver’s stable, balanced offense, isn’t it conceivable to expect 35-40 catches from him? Shanahan and coordinator Gary Kubiak will certainly develop packages to get him on the field, where he can operate over the middle, move the chains and provide another red-zone presence. Think a defensive back isn’t going to pay a little extra attention to a guy with 197 touchdown receptions on his résumé?
We may have winced a little at the time, but in the end, we won’t remember Michael Jordan with the Wizards, Johnny Unitas with the Chargers or Willie Mays with the Mets. And let’s not gripe or moan about one of the NFL’s greats trying to make it through one more training camp, one more year in the fading Sunday sun with one more team.
If a man truly is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do, let’s enjoy the most successful receiver ever for one more run.
There's another PFW piece on Rice too:
PFW: Is this the right move for Denver and Rice?
|05-26-2005, 11:38 AM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Dove Valley
Maybe Shanny is still the mastermind? He got the "GOAT" to play for the league minimum. He forced him to agree (at least publicly) to earn his keep. And somehow Rice is the one getting all the publicity (and heat)? That's good because the alternative would be a bunch of articles about how Denver is taking on "turds" and is "desperate" to find WR help.
Also, I like the fact that this article points out that: "It should be noted that the Broncos’ ground-based system has rarely provided many opportunities for No. 3 or 4 wide receivers." Perhaps that something to do with our WR question marks and not just our poor drafting?
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