Two's a Crowd
Will there be enough passes in Oakland to keep Jerry Rice and Tim Brown happy?
Ever since Jerry Rice signed with the Raiders on June 5, there has been speculation about whether he can coexist with new teammate and fellow wideout Tim Brown. The 38-year-old Rice, who spent the past 16 years with the 49ers, holds virtually every major NFL receiving record. Brown, 34, is the Raiders' alltime leading receiver. Each player has a history of demanding the ball and complaining when he doesn't get it often enough. Given that Oakland has gone to a more balanced attack (Brown caught only 76 passes in 2000, his lowest output since 1992) and that no Raiders wideout other than Brown has totaled more than 50 receptions in any of the past eight years, something has to give, right?
"I know him well enough to know he's not a jerk, and neither am I," Brown says. "I don't think there will be an issue. As long as the focus is on the team and not us, that's all I care about. Plus I'm a low-key guy. If he wants all the attention, he can have it."
Both men have tried to paint a picture of harmony. They played golf together three times last week before reporting for a three-day minicamp and then had conversations at their adjacent lockers. Brown is helping tutor Rice on Oakland's version of the West Coast offense. Though Rice played under a similar system in San Francisco, he is learning new terminology and new positions. (Brown plays flanker, the role Rice primarily occupied with the 49ers.)
As has been his custom, Rice is practicing like a maniac, but he's also trying to prove himself all over again. "He's nervous," says Raiders coach Jon Gruden. "He's a little uncomfortable. He had a rhythm to his routine [in San Francisco] that came instinctively, and that's gone."
"I do feel like I've lost some of what I had established," says Rice. "These guys have their own cliques, a certain way of doing things. The only way I'm going to fit in is by busting my butt. Guys accept you when they see how you approach the game."
Even assuming Rice and Brown can coexist, Oakland faces another personnel issue at wideout. Rice's arrival likely makes free agent Andre Rison the odd man out Rison, 34, signed a one-year deal with Oakland last August, then caught 41 passes for 606 yards and six touchdowns as the Raiders advanced to the AFC Championship Game. He became a favorite of some of the team's younger stars, like cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who says Rison brought "a nastiness" to the offense. Russell and Woodson have lobbied for Rison's return.
However, Rison wants a two-year deal with an annual salary comparable to the five-year, $6 million contract that Oakland recently gave James Jett, the club's No. 3 wideout. The Raiders, though, can't afford to tie up too much money in receivers. Plus, having three high-profile, thirtysomething pass catchers doesn't make much sense. In this case, particularly, two will be plenty.
Andre Wadsworth's Plight
Former Cardinal Tries to Get Well
How far has defensive end Andre Wadsworth fallen? Consider that on June 1 the Cardinals rescinded their one-year, $512,000 offer to the restricted free agent, thereby relinquishing their rights to the player who was the third pick in the 1998 draft.