Rice usually cooks in Super Bowl

"Once the game starts, it becomes a football game. That's when everyone has to focus and take care of details." -- Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice

 

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice is back in familiar territory – the Super Bowl.

            If his past is any indication, Rice will dominate Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in San Diego. Rice, who played for three Super Bowl champions in San Francisco, owns 10 Super Bowl records: career receptions (28), receptions in a game (11), career yards (512), yards in a game (215), career points (42), points in a game (18), career touchdowns (7), touchdowns in a game (3), career receiving touchdowns (7) and receiving touchdowns in a game (3).

            "Once the game starts, it becomes a football game," Rice said of playing in Super Bowls. "That's when everyone has to focus and take care of details."

            The Bucs, however, are easily the best defense Rice will face in a Super Bowl. Cincinnati (1988), Denver (1989) and San Diego (1994) were no match him – like every other opponent he has faced. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, boasts the NFL's top-ranked defense and is undoubtedly the best group Oakland has faced since losing to Baltimore 16-3 in the 2001 AFC Title Game.

            "I know they've got great players and a lot of speed on defense," Rice said. "Just watching them when they played the Niners and Philadelphia, they've got a lot of smart players and do a great job of disguising. I feel like we match up pretty well."

            At age 40, Rice continues to dominate. He led the Raiders in receiving with 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns. Just two years ago, the 49ers released released Rice after 16 glorious seasons.

San Francisco wanted to ease Rice into retirement because his production was declining and he carried a heavy price tag. Rice, however, insisted on still playing. The 49ers, meanwhile, opted to go with Terrell Owens, 11 years Rice's junior, as its lead receiver. Owens' performance has warranted No. 1 status but Rice continues to dominate while San Francisco has not found a legitimate running mate to Owens.

While Rice does not outwardly seethe about getting released by the 49ers, he looked at the opportunity to jump across the bay as a chance to get rejuvenated. The national perception is that fans either love or hate the Raiders – but cannot help but pull for Rice.

"I'm like that borderline guy then I guess," Rice quipped. "When I first came to the Raiders, Tim Brown told me, ‘Jerry, the calls you got as a Niner, you're not going to get as a Raider.' That's true. It's more difficult. We can't leave in the hands of the officials."

 

Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com


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