Rice eager but not angry to face old team

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice has escaped the goading temptations of saying anything negative about his former team and Sunday opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. The 18th year veteran has amassed 1,743 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns since the 49ers released him after the 2000 season.

 

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice has escaped the goading temptations of saying anything negative about his former team and Sunday opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

            The 18th year veteran has amassed 1,743 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns since the 49ers released him after the 2000 season. Rice owns virtually every receiving record in the galaxy and will also look for his 200th career touchdown, another NFL first, against his former team.

            Rice has been repeatedly tempted to second-guess his move across the Bay but always diplomatically answers, "You know, I believe things happen for a reason. It was time for me to move on."

            Rice's teammates, however, know Sunday's game has weighed on his mind.

            "You spend all your life over there, you've done so many great things and you come back and play a team like that, it's got to be a big game for Jerry," said Raiders running back Charlie Garner, also a former 49er. "I'm sure Jerry will be at his best."

            The 49ers went a combined 10-22 in 1999-2000 after several years of dominance. San Francisco's receiving corps became a combination of young but talented receivers in Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes along with a seasoned veteran Rice full of accomplishments. Owens has flourished into a superstar, albeit a mercurial one, while Stokes has been a bust.

San Francisco has never let sentimentality become a factor in making personnel decisions and opted to go with Owens. The logic was that Owens sought the role of being the top dog and would never have that distinction with Rice. During the 2000 season, Rice became a more secondary figure in the offense. Rice, however, does not buy the notion that two headstrong receivers could not co-exist.

"Sure, we were pretty different, T.O. and I but there were a lot of different personalities in that locker room," Rice said. "We could always put that aside and focus on the big picture, which was winning. You know, T.O. does his own thing and I do mine. But we could have coexisted, no doubt. No doubt in my mind. But the 49ers made their choice."

Rice remains convinced that hopping across the Bay revitalized him. In addition, he said that he bears no animosity toward the 49ers and would not hesitate to exchange greetings with former players and coaches.

"All the guys, I have nothing against those guys. I have nothing against the coaches," Rice said. "They did me a great favor, because it gave me a chance to rejuvenate myself. There's no animosity or anything. So yeah, I'm going to speak to some guys."


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