Rice gone but not forgotten

Over the course of two months, three veterans who were key components to the Oakland Raiders AFC Championship team in 2002 are now gone. Those losses were quite evident in the Raiders locker-room Wednesday.

Well, quarterback Rich Gannon falls into the "here but not here " category after the Oakland Raiders placed him on injured reserve for the second straight season on Wednesday.

Legendary wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown are also gone. The Raiders and Seattle Seahawks completed the trade that sent Rice to Seattle Tuesday. Oakland released Brown in training camp after 16 seasons because they felt that the veteran's skills were declining and that young receivers like Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel and Alvis Whitted were ready to contribute after years of laboring in the vines under the tutelage of Rice and Brown.

Rice, whom the San Francisco 49ers released after 16 years for much the same reason the Raiders released Brown, remained and it was generally assumed that he would be paired as a starter along side Porter. Well, he was in a nominal sense but was a nonfactor. In fact, Rice was not on the field much in key moments of games and went three games without a catch. Rice had his consecutive games streak snapped at 274 with at least one catch.

Rice became more vocal with his displeasure each passing week. He claimed the Raiders were not honest with him about their plans and wanted to go to a team where he could be a factor.

"I don't know if it's so much of a relief. I think we all understand that things like that happen," Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins said referring to Rice's outspokenness of his role. "We need to move on. That's part of what this business is about."

Many people bristle that at 42, Rice has nothing left to prove and should retire but unfortunately they are missing the point. Rice might not be the best in the game like he was 10 years ago but he's at least still as good as middle-of-the road receivers like Ricky Proehl.

Nonetheless, younger Raider receivers like Ronald Curry believe that the example Rice set with his maniacal prepare will carry forward.

"He's a pro," Curry said. "Just in the way he approached practice and the way he approached the game. He wanted to play. He deserved the right to play. It wasn't happening here and Seattle was going to give him that opportunity. If anybody deserves what they want he does."

Backup quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo agreed.

"I guess you're not really surprised about anything when it happens," Tuiasosopo said. "He's one of the best players that ever played. He's a great role model and a great leader in terms of work ethic. Hopefully, that's rubbed off on us."

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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