Tuesday, March 7, 2000
Jerry Rice at
crossroads of life
The NFL's greatest receiver,By Paul Arnett
in Hawaii to raise money for
local charities, says he's
at peace now
Jerry Rice isn't sure how many NFL years he still has in him.
He doesn't know if he has suited up for the last time as a San Francisco 49er or if he will ever be on the receiving end of another Steve Young touchdown pass.
He has probably played in his last Super Bowl. And may be hard-pressed to land a spot in the Pro Bowl ever again.
But, despite all these uncertainties in his professional life, Rice has reached tranquility base.
"I'm very at peace right now," Rice said during yesterday's press conference at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.
Perhaps the greatest receiver of all time, the 37-year-old is in town to help the local chapters of the March of Dimes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Honolulu and Easter Seals Hawaii raise money through the Jerry Rice 127 Foundation.
Rice and a team of former and current NFL stars will take part in one softball and three basketball games held throughout the state. There will also be a golf tournament at the Makena South Course on Maui.
University of Hawaii football coach June Jones will be the basketball coach for Team Hawaii that will go against Rice's traveling salvation show.
Both Jones and Rice took part in yesterday's 15-minute press conference. The topics ranged from why and how Rice decided he wanted to give something back to the community to what lies ahead on a football field.
No, Rice doesn't plan to play a sports commentator on TV or become a high-profile coach at the collegiate or professional level. And, yes, he would like to stay with the 49ers through the remainder of a career that has already spanned 15 years.
"I guess I have to go out and hand out the resumes, do all that," Rice said when asked of his playing status.
The salary cap has strapped San Francisco, forcing Rice and Young to either rethink their contracts or go elsewhere to end their days on the playing field.
"I plan on playing football somewhere,'' Rice said. "If it doesn't work out with the Niners, I have had over 13 great years of winning 10 or more games. I have played with some of the best athletes to compete in football.
"I have to go through my options."
Rice would like to get something done before June 1.
"The reason for that is to have the opportunity to shop my services and out of respect, if things don't work out between us," Rice said.
Granted, it's a tough call for the 49ers.
But if they were able to cut loose Hall of Fame members Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott, then Rice and Young aren't immune to the bottom line of the salary cap, either.
The 49ers need to rebuild and in a hurry. Letting Rice and Young go, or re-signing them for less money, gives them more maneuverability.
As much as Rice has done for San Francisco - and he's done a lot, including three trips to the Super Bowl, 14 NFL records and 12 Pro Bowl appearances - it's still unlikely his final years will be in a 49ers uniform.
"I had a couple of guys on the airplane coming over and they told me, 'Do you know what? We've been watching you ever since we were 8,' " Rice said. "I didn't know if I should take that as a compliment or what. Everything is a year-by-year thing now.
"I have played in some of the biggest games, so I don't feel like I have anything to prove. It's just that I still enjoy the game.
"I'm just like a little kid out there. I get gratification out of little kids coming up to me and asking for my autograph.''
He gets even more by giving back to the community through his foundation that got its name for his NFL-record 127th career touchdown.
Rice has invited such NFL stars as Jason Elam, Bryant Young, Junior Seau and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. Also invited were former running backs Barry Sanders and Roger Craig.
"This is all done for a lot of people who are not as fortunate,'' Rice said. "And it's all about the kids. Jim Brown got me started in this after I was able to make a name for myself. I have met with him a lot of times on these kind of matters. I have a great deal of respect for him.
"I look at myself as a role model. I want to get out there and I want to make a difference. Now, I have the opportunity to do that. I don't want to be remembered just as Jerry Rice the football player. I want to do more.
"I feel very comfortable in my life right now.
"So, if it doesn't work out in football, then I can always go and just watch my kids in their different activities. My son wants to do everything right now. So I can do that, just go watch him."