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Rice to the Bears?

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Rice would be nice in Bears colors



Wednesday, September 14, 2005




By now, his agent should have more to go on.


But until we know for sure, allow me to go on a bit about the man who ought to be the Bears' third receiver.


Yes, I know Jerry Rice ended his record-setting NFL labors, perhaps appropriately, on Labor Day. But there he was, sounding anything but comfortable with his retirement Sunday, the day the Bears opened their season with the sort of offensive display that might prompt other men of Rice's age to double up on the Viagra.


Guesting in CBS' game-day studio, Rice was asked what he'd do if a team sought out his services.


"I'm out the door," Rice said. "I'm on that team. Without a doubt."


Contacted before his planned trip Tuesday to San Francisco to meet with Rice, agent Jim Steiner was asked what might happen if that team were the Bears.


"Not gonna happen," Steiner said from his St. Louis office. "I just don't see the Bears doing it.


"I know Jerry Angelo extremely well, I've known him over 20 years. I know Ted Phillips extremely well — I've known him since Dan Hampton was drafted by the Bears in 1979. If they were interested in Jerry Rice, they would call."


Please, gentlemen, call.


One thing the Bears have shown this season is an ability to fold a lousy hand. Chad Hutchinson was quickly revealed to be a loser, so they dumped him rather than compound an unwise investment.


The guess here is neither will they linger too long before veering away from Thomas Jones' predictability toward Cedric Benson's potential.


The Bears seem to trying not to fool themselves this year. Let's join them.


They have a playoff-caliber defense. And despite their youth at quarterback and, ultimately, at running back, this is not an offense that is truly in a developmental stage.


Seven of the offensive starters are at least 28 years old with seven or more years in the league. Five of the starters — wide receiver Mushin Muhammad, left tackle John Tait, left guard Ruben Brown, right tackle Fred Miller and fullback Marc Edwards — are at least 30.


The way contracts and injuries work in the NFL, gradual builds are tough to pull off. In what looks to be a lousy division, the Bears have even less incentive to bide their time.


Yeah, I know the knock on Rice while he was in training camp with Denver was that he was having trouble getting open. That would make him absolutely no different than any Bears receiver Sunday besides Muhammad.


On a day during which Kyle Orton was praised widely by everyone connected to the Bears' organization for the way he made his reads and saw the field, Orton managed to complete passes to Muhammad six times and threw his way six more. Fellow wideouts Justin Gage, Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian were targeted a total of seven times and combined for three catches, equaling the amount by tight end Desmond Clark. Jones and Edwards also combined for three catches out of the backfield.


Besides, Rice was nagged by a foot injury during training camp. The Bears' receivers have only inability and inexperience as their excuses.


Rice will be 43 next month, true enough. Conventional wisdom suggests he'd be best off waiting for some sure-fire playoff team to lose a receiver to injury in a few weeks and mount a comeback then.


Rice, however, is hardly conventional.


Twice the NFL Player of the Year, Rice holds league records for receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197) and total touchdowns (208). He's a Super Bowl MVP and a 13-time Pro Bowler.


A fitness fanatic, Rice was introduced to running hills by former San Francisco running back Roger Craig, who, so the story goes, learned the tactic from Walter Payton. Since then, about the only time Rice has seemed unprepared was for the end of his career.


He wanted only to be the Broncos' third receiver, and had risen to that spot on the depth chart during camp before struggling and sliding. Rather than face the possibility of being a non-contributor, he opted to retire.


"The retirement thing came down very quickly with Jerry," Steiner said. "It came a week ago Saturday, and by the following Monday — Labor Day — he was announcing his retirement. We had about an hour together before that happened."


In their planned time together Tuesday, Steiner assumed they'd talk about what to do if another offer comes up — or if they might consider contacting teams themselves.


Either way, Rice and the Bears should talk.


Last year, after a midseason trade from Oakland, he played in 11 games for the Seahawks, starting nine. He had 25 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns with the Seahawks, 30 catches and 429 yards overall.


He would have led the Bears in touchdown catches and, among their wide receivers, ranked third in receptions and third in yards per catch.


Does anyone doubt he could step in and contribute more than Gage, Berrian or Bobby Wade right now? Wouldn't he be a tremendous role model for the project that is Bradley, who was a bit of a reach as the Bears' second-round pick after starting just four times over two years at Oklahoma?


And hey, aren't the Bears trying to run the West Coast offense?


Jerry Rice, more than Joe Montana or Steve Young or even Bill Walsh, IS the West Coast offense.


Orton would probably benefit from his presence, too. And Benson.


But this isn't about bringing in another coach. This is about trying to win now.


Jerry Rice is better suited to the job than anyone the Bears have.





***Rice says he would unretire immediately if a team calls. The Bears may interested I think he would help the development of Orton and help Muhammad see less double coverage. But then again aren't the Packers needing some help too?

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this is just an editorial...not really a news piece

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Wouldn't he have to be cleared by Denver, in order to play on another team?


I think Jerry is the greatest, but as I watched Denver's receivers drop pass after pass on Sunday, I couldn't help but think "Man, we cut some people so we could keep Rice on the roster... and then he bailed after cutdowns. We could sure use some steady hands at WR right now."


Now if Jerry was going to sign a 1 day contract with SF to retire a 49er, I could see Shanahan doing that. But to let him play for another team after his abrupt retirement? I don't think so.

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