Could Rice's role be the one Brown didn't want?

Could Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice be playing the "lesser role" that Tim Brown did not care to accept?

If you look at Sunday's 24-21 Oakland Raiders loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, one might be inclined to think so. The Raiders host the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Rice caught two passes for 22 yards last Sunday but saw very little playing time in the second half as the Raiders turned more to Doug Gabriel, Alvis Whitted and Ronald Curry. Gabriel and Whitted each caught touchdown passes.

Oakland released Brown after 16 seasons for much the same reason the San Francisco 49ers, Rice's team of 16 years, released Rice. The Raiders felt that Brown's skills were on the decline and that young receivers such as Gabriel, Whitted, Curry and Carlos Francis. Brown has since become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. While Rice has not complained, he was clearly mystified.

"You know what guys, I try to prepare myself during the week," Rice said. "If I'm out there, my job is to make plays. Doug is doing a great job. It's not my call. The thing is that I'm going to try to prepare myself. It's not about me, it's about the team. Whatever it takes to win. As a competitor you want to be out there. You want to be the guy to make things happen."

Raiders head coach Norv Turner attributed Sunday in Pittsburgh as nothing more than the coaching staff finding ways to integrate the myriad of receivers. Rice confirmed that he and Turner spoke about Sunday's situation but did not go into details.

"I'm going to stay very positive," Rice said. "It's not about me, it's about the team. I don't know what's going to happen this week, I'm just going to get ready."

Rice added he'll help the younger players if it means making the team better.

"I think I can help these young guys by the way I practice, the way I prepare myself and the way I take the football field on a given Sunday," Rice said. "Those guys are looking. They're going to look up to me and I've got to set a good example for them. There's the little things. If this guy ran a route a certain way and I feel like he can do it better I can go to him and let him know that. They don't look at it like I'm stepping on their toes. I want them to get better."

Perhaps Rice's posture stems from the idea that he does not want to be perceived as selfish, which was the case near the end of his tenure as a 49er. When Rice came to Oakland, Brown was the go-to guy but then Rice gradually became that man.

"(Former 49ers head coach) Bill Walsh created this monster," Rice quipped. "He did it to me because he put a lot of pressure on me. He made it known that I had to make plays for the team to win. You get into that mode and you get used to doing it. When there's a change it's a shock."


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