Davis accommodates Rice 'out of respect'

Updated: October 19, 2004, 10:57 PM ET
Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Al Davis never considered releasing Jerry Rice -- that's just not the way the Oakland Raiders' owner wanted to treat the NFL's most prolific receiver.

So, when the 42-year-old Rice told Davis he could no longer handle his limited role with the Raiders and wanted to go elsewhere, Davis did all he could to accommodate him.

Davis called two teams, and had Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi call three more. Rice finally landed with the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday, with Oakland getting a conditional seventh-round draft pick in return.

"It was Jerry Rice who made the decision, and we honestly tried to accommodate him the best we can," Davis said Tuesday night in a rare interview with reporters via conference call. "All we're getting is a conditional seventh-round draft pick. We accepted the trade out of respect for Jerry. We wanted to accommodate Jerry. ... This is best for him, best for this team and best for coach Norv Turner."

Davis called it an "emotional day," adding "it's not fun when the great ones leave you, either because of age or ability or some reason."

Davis also acknowledged all the problems of the Raiders (2-4), who have lost three straight games and are still making the same mistakes that defined their 4-12 season a year ago.

"I think we're going to be all right, but we've got to do some things to make us all right," he said. "We will see if we can get the Raiders back to greatness. ...

"You have to be awfully willing to wait. I have to admit we're all disappointed."

Davis met with Rice last Wednesday to work out a plan to make both parties happy. Davis said Rice asked the 75-year-old owner for more responsibility in Turner's offense, but Davis couldn't give Rice any guarantees.

Davis then tried to make something happen before Tuesday's trading deadline, calling the Seahawks, who were "lukewarm" to the idea at first, he said.

The Raiders are trying to develop a handful of talented young receivers, and Rice has only five catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns this season after leading Oakland with 63 catches for 869 yards last season. He's gone without a reception three times in five games, ending a record run of 274 straight games with a catch, and causing the 20-year veteran to complain on several occasions.

"It's not a distraction for me, but it was a distraction for the coach," Davis said. "He didn't deserve it."

Rice holds league records for most career receptions (1,524), most yards receiving (22,533) and most touchdown receptions (194).

"He's one of the truly great players of all time," Davis said. "We've had some great players here. There's no question Jerry Rice is one of the great players of all time."

Rice claimed he hadn't been warned his role would be minimal this season. Davis said Rice was expected to be a contributor in the offense but that it just didn't happen.

Receiver Tim Brown, formerly the longest-tenured member of the team, was released in training camp when he was told he might not even be active some Sundays. Rice was always thought of as a starter, Davis said.

"He didn't have a diminished role with the offense," Davis said. "He was told he'd be in the mix and that he'd be a starter. Jerry was given a pretty honest approach to where he would be. It was nowhere near where I sat down and talked to Tim Brown."

Davis believes Rice can still be productive, and will always appreciate the fact Rice joined the Raiders when he was let go by the San Francisco 49ers four years ago.

They spoke Monday.

"My parting words to him were that we appreciated that he came through and wore the Silver and Black, and that his greatness can never be questioned," Davis said. "And we hugged each other. It doesn't mean our friendship or our relationship is over."

Davis compared Rice to Hall of Fame quarterback and kicker George Blanda, who played the final nine of his 26 seasons with Oakland.

"They thought their greatness would go on forever," Davis said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press