Frustration grows in Rice
Rice asked the Raiders to trade him if he's no longer going to have a significant role, and he met with owner Al Davis on Wednesday night to discuss his options.
"If there's something that can be done, it will be done," said coach Norv Turner, who has spoken to Rice several times recently. "Everything's too vague right now for me to get into any specifics. He's expressed his wishes, and we'll just see what happens."
The last time Davis met with a receiver was during training camp, and Tim Brown was released the next day after refusing to accept a greatly diminished role with the Raiders.
Rice is making $1.35 million in base salary this season. He spent Wednesday -- his 42nd birthday -- defending his ability to catch passes yet again. That's the umpteenth time already this season.
His complaining is becoming a weekly occurrence.
"I'm not trying to force anything, but, you know, it doesn't make any sense for me to stay here if things continue going this way," Rice said, reiterating he'd like to be traded.
"I didn't envision what's going down right now. I pretty much was under the impression I was going to be a big factor this year, be a part of the offense and have opportunities to make plays."
Rice, who claims he was never informed he'd have such a diminished role, told a Sacramento radio station Tuesday that he expected to be traded before the Oct. 19 deadline and would embrace the chance to play elsewhere because he "can't go out this way."
There also have been rumors about a possible trade with the Detroit Lions that would reunite Rice with Steve Mariucci, his former coach at San Francisco.
Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi denied there was ever a trade in the works. Rice's agent, Jim Steiner, was out of the country and unavailable.
Mariucci said Wednesday that he had read about Rice's situation but that the Lions were committed to developing their young receiving corps.
"That's where we're headed," he said. "We're headed forward with these guys. The trade deadline is next week. Not a lot of trades go on in football. There are some rumors about several receivers and other players too, but we haven't given it a lot of serious consideration only because we're committed to our guys right now and headed in a certain direction where guys are going to be here for several years."
Rice, the NFL's career leader in catches and touchdowns and the only receiver to ever play after age 40, has just five receptions for 67 yards and no touchdowns. His record streak of 274 consecutive games with a catch ended in a 13-10 win over Buffalo in Week 2. He threw a sideline tantrum after that game.
He compared his current situation to the one he faced with the 49ers four years ago when they let him go and decided to give their young receivers more opportunities.
"It's not up to me to fix it. If I did that, then I would be running the team," Rice said, laughing. "You know what, I look at the situation and it's always a business. That's the way I've approached it. Sometimes you're just dealt a bad hand. If I have to leave, I have to go. That's the bottom line. If I go to another team, then I'm going to do everything possible to help that team to win."
His teammates sympathize.
"Everybody wants to be involved in the game," receiver Ronald Curry said. "Jerry should be involved in the game. I think he deserves the right, but we're not really running the offense or calling the plays where we're singling one guy out. It's more what the defense is giving us, and Jerry hasn't really had those opportunities."
Turner has stressed that Rice is still an important member of the Raiders, but this offense isn't going to have one go-to receiver.
"Jerry's been unbelievable," Turner said. "He's a pro, and I've got the most amount of respect for him."
Rice is having a hard time accepting the fact his career is winding down. He said in January this would be his last season, but has since insisted he'll be back next year.
He worked just as hard as always leading into his 20th NFL season, the fourth with Oakland.
"I know it's frustrating for Jerry, and his particular situation is a hard one. I know he's not playing as much as he'd like to," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "But we've all got things we're frustrated about right now, and we've all got to keep the team in mind. I know Jerry will do that. He's the ultimate pro. I don't think we're going to trade him and I don't think he's going anywhere but stay right here. I believe he can contribute."
Meanwhile, injured quarterback Rich Gannon was seeing another doctor in Los Angeles on Wednesday to determine whether he can play again this season after breaking a vertebra in his neck. It's likely 38-year-old Gannon will be placed on injured reserve soon, ending his season.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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