Do you recall what you did for your 40th birthday? Chances are, it wasn't what Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice will be doing when he reaches that milestone Sunday in the Raiders matchup at St. Louis.
"I don't know why you guys are laughing because I'm turning 40," Rice quipped. "Yes, I'm turning the big 4-0. What can I say? I feel like I'm very fortunate that I'm still able to play at a very high level. I'm just going to stare this monster right in the face. I'm going to be a man. I'm ready for the abuse from my teammates."
Rice, who signed with the Raiders' last season after getting released by the San Francisco 49ers, continues to put his 15 NFL records into the stratosphere. Rice has 1,388 receptions, 198 touchdowns, 21,359 yards from scrimmage and 245 consecutive games with a catch.
And it's not as if Rice is just hanging on just to break records. He is still going strong. Rice is among the AFC leaders in several receiving categories, including yards (eighth), yards per game (seventh) and receptions per game (12th).
Rice's incomparable career looked in jeopardy in 1997. Rice tore up his left knee in the 1997 opener against Tampa Bay and came back to play on a Monday night against Denver that December and reinjured the knee. All Rice has done since returning the ensuing season is add 331 receptions and 32 touchdowns to his totals. The 49ers, however, released Rice after the 2000 season for salary cap reasons and the fact that the team was in a rebuilding mode.
"I didn't have any doubts about what I was capable of," Rice said. "I knew they were going in a different direction. It was how can we make this easy? I'm not blaming the Niners or anything like that because I believe things happen for a reason. It was best for me and gave me an opportunity to come to a situation where I could prove myself all over again. The last four years with the Niners were very frustrating because I knew I was still capable of making plays."
Rice's offseason workouts are legendary which includes running numerous hills.
"Here he is, the best to play his position -- maybe ever to play the game -- and he's out there 30 minutes before practice and out there long past everyone else," Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "If I was a younger player, I'd ask if I could just stand there and watch and absorb everything I could."
Added Rice: "Being a Raider has really rejuvenated me. It gave me an opportunity to do some of the things I have done over the years. Sometimes you need something like that."