What are the Packers waiting for? Rice is the answer
As Packers’ star receiver Javon Walker writhed in pain on the sideline carpet with a season-ending knee injury on Sunday in Detroit, the thought of No. 80 coming to the rescue came to mind.
Part of me speculated – or hoped – quarterback Brett Favre would pressure his general manager into inquiring about Jerry Rice’s availability.
Not that the 42-year-old Rice would need any prodding.
After all, the NFL’s greatest all-time receiver reluctantly retired from football a week earlier when the Denver Broncos informed him that he would be their fourth receiver. Rice still believed in his heart and mind that he could contribute on the field and had too much pride to accept a reserve role.
With Donald Driver, the Packers have a bonafide go-to guy in Walker’s absence. Driver should be able to keep the chains moving on third down, but the Packers should be concerned about their No. 2 receiver.
Robert Ferguson has made his most significant contributions to the Packers on special teams, although he has started 18 games at wide receiver. The former Texas A&M star has 84 receptions for 1,180 yards and eight touchdowns in his five-year NFL career.
Green Bay still has faith in Ferguson as his four-year contract extension prior to the 2004 season suggests, but can he become a consistent contributor, which is expected of No. 2 receivers?
The Packers’ other option is not ready. Terrence Murphy is a rookie out of Texas A&M who lists Rice as his favorite sports role model.
Midweek reports are that the Packers are interested in much-traveled Jerome Pathon. Pathon and Rice, who would you rather have?
Rice is the logical choice here. Wouldn’t it be something to watch he and Favre work together? Two future Hall of Famers playing past their primes but producing because of their incredible work ethic and respect of the game.
Rice’s critics say he’s lost a step or two and he can’t separate from defensive backs. I don’t believe it. One of the best route runners in the history of the game is still going to get open and a good quarterback gets him the ball.
It’s been a while since Rice has worked with a great quarterback. His past two signal-callers – Jake Plummer and Matt Hasselbeck – aren’t even coveted in the fantasy football world. They make too many mistakes to win Super Bowls. Rice and Favre have four Super Bowl rings between them.
Furthermore, there isn’t a player past or present who has accomplished more than Rice – that includes Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Rice left the NFL with 38 records and the security that he changed the game.
Rice obviously wouldn’t make anyone forget Walker, but he’s the one player who could step in as a second or third receiver and help the Packers avoid a losing season.
As the days pass since Walker’s injury, Rice is probably channeling his rare work ethic into another sport. Now that he’s through with football, he can pursue Rick Rhoden and Dan Quinn in celebrity golf.
I like his chances but only after one season in Green Bay.
– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or at firstname.lastname@example.org