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Publish Date: 5/25/2005

Is Rice right for Denver?
No change or updates on talks with receiver

ENGLEWOOD — The subject of the joke remained a mystery.

But the story never the less was recounted.

On Tuesday morning, a Denver Broncos receiver, who remained unidentified, showed up for quarterback camp and found his name above his locker had been replaced.

In its place was “J. Rice.”

“We have some very good receivers on the team trying to mess with one guy,” said fullback Kyle Johnson, who wouldn’t cough up the name. “Everybody thought that was the most funny thing.”

No joke. Former San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle wide receiver Jerry Rice could very soon have his name over a Denver locker. While the deal didn’t go down Tuesday, it could happen very soon, according to his agent, Jim Steiner.

While the Broncos play the waiting game on Rice, now’s the time to ponder a few vital questions. Is this the right move for Denver? Will bringing in the NFL’s all-time leader in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns turn the Broncos into a carnival show? A receiver who can still play at 42 years old is almost freakish. When Denver receiver Nate Jackson was asked if he could imagine playing at that age, he just shook his head in admiration.

“No,” he said. “I can’t imagine even walking at 42.”

Former players and writers from all over the country are weighing in on Rice’s decision to return for a 21st season. Most are urging him to hang up the cleats.

“No matter how much you love something, you have to let it go,” former Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe said Monday on his Sirius Satellite radio show. “I know Jerry loves the game and wants to play, but you can’t play forever. I know his mind tells him he can still get it done, but you know what your body says? It says, ‘I want to lay here in bed.’”

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto was even more direct.

“He is coming dangerously close to Rickey Henderson territory here,” Ratto said in his Monday column.

Henderson, you might recall, is still in baseball, albeit not on the Major League level. He’s suiting up for the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League. Henderson just can’t let baseball go.

Rice may be having the same problem with football. Pretty soon, he may be begging to play for the Colorado Crush.

“He long ago passed the point where he had anything left to prove,” Ratto said.

Sure, Rice could sell a few tickets. He might even be a good mentor for the younger receivers. But Rice’s best days have passed him by a few years ago.

Not that anyone with the Broncos would admit that fact. They’re excited about the possibility of Rice joining the team.

“I’ve played with some great players, and he’d just be added to that list,” Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. “Let’s (bring him in) and see what he can do.”

Alexander out: Denver offensive guard P.J. Alexander tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Friday’s minicamp, and will be out for the season.

To replace Alexander, the Broncos signed unrestricted free agent Cameron Spikes. In order to do that, Denver had to release defensive end Randy Garner.

Spikes, 6-foot-4, 313 pounds, started eight games for the Arizona Cardinals at right guard and one at left guard last season.

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