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'I' in His Name, Not Team

September 22, 2000|STEVE SPRINGER

Jerry Rice says he may be ready to leave the San Francisco 49ers.

Not football, just the 49ers.

Rice, holder of nearly every meaningful NFL career receiving record, said he isn't ready to retire, but that San Francisco's younger pass-catchers probably won't get the experience they need unless he is gone next season.

"I personally am not ready to start talking about next year," Coach Steve Mariucci said. "[Rice] is team-oriented enough to start talking about it. . . . That's just the kind of guy he is."

Said 49er receiver J.J. Stokes: "Since I've been here, [Rice] has been really unselfish. He puts the team first, and that's how it should be."

Or maybe Rice is just tired of trying to convince himself that quarterback Jeff Garcia is the next Joe Montana or Steve Young.

Atlanta Falcon receiver Terance Mathis is bothered because the Georgia Dome will be about 11,000 seats short of a sellout Sunday when his team takes on the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

Coming off a season in which they went to the Super Bowl, the Falcons sold out only two games last year.

"You just wish that more people would get behind this team, because we are going somewhere," Mathis said. "If they don't know it now, they will soon enough."

Maybe it's the fact that the fans know this: In two games against the Rams last season, the Falcons were outscored, 76-20.

St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner has thrown for at least 300 yards in seven of his last eight games.

CENTRAL / No Leap Year in Green Bay

How bad is the once mighty Green Bay Packer offense?

It's ranked 29th in the league and last Sunday's touchdownless victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was the first game in 35 years in which a Packer team failed to get into the end zone.

"Our running game is struggling. Our passing game is struggling," receiver Antonio Freeman said. "It makes you say, 'What is wrong with us?' "

Green Bay Coach Mike Sherman thought he might find out during a sleepless night after the Philadelphia game, so he drove over to his office at Lambeau Field.

"I said, 'Maybe I'll feel better after looking at the tape,' " Sherman recalled. "Well, I didn't feel any better. Usually, you look at it and, 'Hey, it's not as bad as you think.' "

This time, it was.

The Detroit Lions may be 2-1, but Coach Bobby Ross isn't exactly bragging about it.

"We found a way to win the first couple of games," Ross said, "but we're going to run out of those after awhile if we don't start being able to run the ball."

The Lions have managed only 177 rushing yards all season. That was one game for their now-retired superstar, Barry Sanders.

Detroit had a total of 17 yards rushing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. That was one carry for Sanders.

When it comes to rushing for the Buccaneers, be assured that, when the end zone is in sight, the call will be to Mike Alstott. He has 15 of their last 18 rushing touchdowns.

EAST / Others Feel Aikman's Pain

Troy Aikman insists there is no pain in his head and no worry on his mind.

The Dallas Cowboy quarterback will be back on the field this week after missing two games because of a concussion, the ninth in his 12-year career and the third in his last 10 regular-season starts.

"I wouldn't play if I felt I was going in tentatively," Aikman said. "I don't anticipate that happening. It never has in the past, and I don't think that is the case now. If it is, I'll be the first one to say I shouldn't be playing. You can't play effectively if you're concerned about getting hit."

Washington Redskin owner Daniel Snyder spent $40 million on signing bonuses in the off-season to acquire new talent. But New York Giant guard Glenn Parker, whose team faces the Redskins this week, insists he isn't impressed.

"The Giants went to a junkyard and pulled pieces off spare cars, and [Washington] went down to the Ferrari and Porsche lot," Parker said. "Ferraris and Porsches are awfully nice out there. They look great sitting in your driveway. But you're afraid to drive them sometimes, aren't you?"

The problem for Snyder is that most of his team's drives end too quickly.

Last year was supposed to be a learning experience for Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. But in this, his second season, he's showing that he has a lot to learn.

McNabb has dropped to the bottom of the passer efficiency ratings in the NFC at 62.0. His percent completion of 54.3 ranks 14th in the conference, and his 5.02 yards per attempt ranks last.

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