Rice, who owns a total of 38 NFL records, including career receptions (1,549), career receiving yards (22,895), receiving touchdowns (197) and overall touchdowns (208), spent the past two days at his home in the San Francisco area mulling over the possibility of retirement after dropping out of the number three receiver slot following Friday night's win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"I said I wouldn't do this," Rice said, dabbing tears from his eyes as he spoke. "I think the tears that you see (are because) I've really enjoyed this ride. It's been great. I never thought I would see this day. I feel pretty good about it."
Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who spent three years with Rice as the 49ers offensive coordinator, praised the 42-year old for the dedication and commitment he brought to the Broncos, and expressed deep regret in having to inform his friend of the teams' position.
"He did everything he could possibly do to get that job," Shanahan said "But it's my job to be honest to the team and do the tough job. I had to do the right thing for the organization. Jerry understands that. He understood exactly where I was coming from."
"I told him I'd still love him on this team, but you would have to think about this role," Shanahan said about his conversation with Rice over the weekend.
The drop in the depth chart presented a huge problem for Rice. He could have stayed on as the fourth or fifth receiver but would likely be deactivated on game day with only 46 of the 53 man roster officially in uniform.
Rice downplayed the idea of retirement throughout the week, but after a disappointing performance against the Cardinals the writing was on the wall.
"Those guys deserve to be on the field," Rice told reporters in the locker room after the game. "They worked real hard. The thing is I'm going to hold my head high if it doesn't work out."
Holding his head high shouldn't be a problem for the former 1998 first round draft pick out of Mississippi Valley State. Throughout his illustrious career he's been a perfect example of everything that is good about sports; a fierce competitor who gave everything he had, both on and off the field.
While others at his position were looking to pad their numbers and sign high dollar endorsement deals, Rice was quietly climbing his way into the record books, earning a spot in history as the single greatest receiver ever.
To put it into perspective, the combined numbers of both Terrell Owens and Randy Moss still fall nearly 4,000 yards short of Rice's career numbers. Individually Owens falls 13,123 yards behind while Moss stands 13,753 yards off the pace.
Simply put there will never be another Jerry Rice, and while eventually some may match or surpass his records, none can come close to equaling the dignity or class Rice brought to the game.
Prior to today's scheduled press conference, Rice - affectionately nicknamed the GOAT, a moniker for Greatest of All Time - met with his Bronco teammates to inform them of his decision before it was made public. When he was finished, the entire Denver roster gave him a standing ovation.
"Not many people that own all the records spend that type of commitment and give that type of commitment in the offseason," Shanahan reiterated. "That's why, in my opinion, he's the greatest player to ever play the game."
"I know you can be productive in other ways, but I felt I had a better chance if I was on the football field," Rice said during Monday's press conference. "It didn't work out, but I'm still going to hold my head high. I have a lot to smile about: all the players I have played with, all the records and the Super Bowls."
Those fortunate enough to have witnessed those milestones have plenty to smile about as well.
Thanks to the GOAT.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past nine years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
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