Amid a few sighs, groans, and looks of bewilderment Jerry Rice signed with the Denver Broncos, and I for one am happy. You see I’m happy for Rice who says he is ending his career on his terms even though, after a stellar career with the San Francisco 49ers, he’s playing for his third team in five seasons. The fact of the matter is no one wants to be told when their time has passed especially athletes. Also, given the state of the wide receiver position in the NFL why are we all in a rush to shove Rice out of the door.
Rice is a throwback in every sense of the word from the way he runs his routes to the way he wears his uniform. Although he would fume from time to time when he felt like he wasn’t seeing his fair share of balls, unlike a lot of today’s pass catchers rarely did he ever express that publicly. Never did he rip either of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks that he played the bulk of his career with (Joe Montana and Steve Young). Nor did he trash his head coach or management when everything in San Francisco was falling down around him.
Now I understand this notion of us never wanting to see our heroes at anything less than their best. It’s wasn’t fun to see Willie Mays stumbling around in the outfield and misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series, or Joe Namath hobbling around on arthritic knees in a Los Angeles Rams uniform, or Muhammad Ali being battered on the ropes by Larry Holmes. But there is also something to be said for a player like Rice sticking around.
First of all forget all of this talk of a tarnished legacy. Jerry Rice’s accomplishments are etched in stone and they are part of the reason why he is the greatest receiver of all time. (and could make his case for being the greatest football player of all time). More so than that Rice’s vast knowledge of the game can be a huge asset to any team particularly, the Broncos and there cast of underachieving wide outs. Ashley Lelie, while extremely talented, has not blossomed into the number one receiver Mike Shannahan hoped he would, nor did last year’s first round draft pick Darius Watts who had an up and down rookie year.
Also remember that this is the team that drafted Maurice Clarett, has there ever been an NFL rookie who needed more guidance than him? Coming into training camp Rice is not even assured a roster spot just a shot at making the team. That might seem like an undignified way for an all time great to go out, but if he is okay with it than we should all be too. From a selfish standpoint I say Jerry keep going until they rip the uniform off and lock you out of the facility.