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Shanahan, Rice together again

Steve Yingling
Former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice tees off during the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Now with the Denver Broncos, Rice is playing under Mike Shanahan, a former coach with the 49ers.
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Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan hasn’t seen Charles Barkley and Brad Garrett play golf.

“You can’t get hurt on the golf course,” Shanahan said when asked about veteran receiver Jerry Rice playing in a golf tournament so close to the start of Broncos’ training camp.

Obviously Rice is one player Shanahan doesn’t worry about.

“Jerry works out harder than anybody else and he’s probably working out two times a day, even though he’s playing golf, that’s the type of athlete he is,” Shanahan said.

Rice confirmed as much, saying his daily workouts – even while he played golf in Lake Tahoe – totaled five hours and included agility drills, sprints, distance running and weight lifting.

That dedication is partly why the 42-year-old Rice thinks he could possibly play until he’s 47.

“When I went to Denver they were looking at me and wondering how this guy can still run routes and still be explosive at age 42,” Rice said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If I wanted to I probably could play another five years. But I’m just thinking one year at a time.”

The Broncos signed Rice during the offseason when it looked like there would no other takers.

“He’s arguably the best player to ever play the game, so to have a guy like that on your football team is always a positive for what he has accomplished and how he’s handled himself,” Shanahan said. “I’m just glad he’s with us. He’s looked real good in our minicamps and hopefully keeps it going. If he does, he’ll make our team better.”

During his 20-year NFL career, Rice has caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns.

Rice’s longevity in a sport that normally doesn’t warrant a lengthy career continues to impress his peers.

“I don’t know he does it,” said Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber. “He’s a phenomenal athlete, he stays in shape and protects his body, but there is no way I could do it 12 more years.

“At 42 I’ll be playing a lot more of this,” Barber said, pointing toward the golf course.

NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith knows why Rice has lasted this long.

“That’s that man’s life,” he said. “He can do what he wants to do.”

While many NFLers dread training camp, Rice doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m excited,” Rice said. “After this, I put the clubs away and I get ready for that pigskin. I’ve had a chance to go to Denver twice to try to get used to that mile-high altitude and I’m getting better and I’m getting the system down.”

He better. Cutting a 42-year-old wide receiver wouldn’t break the Broncos.

“I know nothing is set in stone. I need to go in there and prove that I can still do a job,” he said. “I have never taken anything for granted, but I think they are pleased with what I have shown in the two minicamps.”

Rice hopes other pro athletes can learn from his example.

“Just because you are in your 30s or 40s doesn’t mean your career is coming to an end. If you want it bad enough, you can still work hard and make a place for yourself,” he said.


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