Rice sees action as slot receiver
"I had a drop," Rice said Wednesday. "I don't like that, so I've got to go and look at the film and see what I did wrong there."
Ever the perfectionist, the 42-year-old receiver made quite an impression on his new teammates and coaches. Rice was acquired Tuesday from the Oakland Raiders.
"He has been a guy that has really taken care of his body," said receivers coach Nolan Cromwell, who faced Rice while playing safety for the Los Angeles Rams in the early 1980s. "He has a great level of competitiveness and skills. I kind of marvel at that."
After his early drop, the most prolific receiver in NFL history settled into a groove. He was back in the West Coast offense -- the system in which he flourished during his 16 seasons in San Francisco.
"I'm just trying to find my spot right now," said Rice, slated to play behind starters Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson. "Those guys, they really deserve the respect, and I'm just here to help the team win."
Wearing the No. 80 jersey with the blessing of its previous owner, the long-retired Steve Largent, Rice saw a lot of action while slot receiver Bobby Engram rested a sore ankle.
While teammates gushed about Rice's first practice, he passed along some praise of his own. He compared Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to a former teammate now in the Hall of Fame.
"He reminded me of (Joe) Montana because he could really anticipate when you're going to come out (of a break)," Rice said. "He really gives you a chance to catch the ball and do something with it."
Hasselbeck laughed off the comparison.
"That's what a fifty-dollar bill will do," he cracked, then took responsibility for Rice's one mistake.
"If he starts dropping passes, then I'm probably the problem," Hasselbeck said. "I threw a bad ball to him today. Honestly, there's going to be a little bit of me getting to know him and him getting to know me. But it was easy today in terms of him getting in the flow."
Head coach Mike Holmgren, who worked with Rice during the 49ers' glory years in the 80s, is still deciding how to work his new receiver into an offense already ranked ninth in the NFL.
"We signed him to come in, alternate at the split end position with Koren, run our offense, catch balls when they're thrown to him, do the stuff that we expect all receivers to do," Holmgren said. "And help us try to win football games."
Rice is the NFL career leader in receptions (1,524), yards (22,533) and receiving touchdowns (194). He was acquired from Oakland for a seventh-round draft choice in 2005.
Rice helped San Francisco win three Super Bowl titles, two of them when Holmgren was an assistant coach with the 49ers.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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