Porter is really the guy now

Now that the Oakland Raiders and Tim Brown have parted ways, there are two questions that beg answering. What does this mean for Jerry Rice? Can these "younger" receivers take advantage of their opportunity?

The Oakland Raiders and Brown parted amicably, rare for this franchise considering the bitterness others carried when they left. Brown, however, might just be in the Raiders front office some day and why not? After all, the 38-year old Brown he deserves such respect after giving his heart and soul to the franchise for 16 years through many highs and lows.

Both questions in the opening paragraph are not easy to answer. Let's start with the 41-year old Rice, who could conceivably start alongside Jerry Porter. But with the Raiders parting ways with Brown, could that mean that Rice, undeniably the greatest receiver ever, could slide into the No. 3 role? Could that mean that the Raiders have similar plans for Rice, who was the last link remaining to the great San Francisco teams of the 1980s?

Brown is also the last link to the Raiders in one sense. He was the last Raider to predate the franchise's return to Oakland in 1995.

No one could have blamed Brown if he thought why me and not Jerry?

"I never let myself go there," Brown said in Wednesday's press conference at the Napa Valley Marriott. "There's always a reason why things are done. That doesn't necessarily matter to me. If it's being done, it's being done."

Rice joined the Raiders before the 2001 season after the San Francisco 49ers released him after 16 years. Rice made the Pro Bowl in 2002 in helping the Raiders reach the Super Bowl. Another reason he could suffer the same fate is because since he joined the team after playing 16 years with another club, something Brown wants, the Raiders owe no favors to Rice.

Coming into training camp, the Raiders clearly wanted to take a long look at younger receivers like Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel, Alvis Whitted, along with rookies like Carlos Francis and Johnnie Morant. Those players have a combined 11 years of NFL experience, seven of which belong to Whitted.

Porter, who more or less replaced Brown in terms of production, is not necessarily a sure thing either. He has only been totally healthy for one season in his first four. How will he handle his role now, knowing that he is the go-to- guy? How will guys like Francis, Morant, Gabriel, Curry and Whitted perform now that their growth will not be stunted by Brown's presence?

"I think Jerry Porter is a very talented guy," Brown said. "He's a guy that has played. The only question about him in my mind is can he play every down. Physically, he's obviously as good as they come. He can be one of the best in the league if he dedicates himself to the game."

SB Report Top Stories