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Publish Date: 9/5/2005

Retirement best option for Rice

ENGLEWOOD — This was prearranged.

It was the only solution so late in the game.

There was no way that Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was going to cut the greatest receiver of our generation, Jerry Rice, on Saturday in the final trimming of the roster. Shanahan’s brimming with respect for Rice, and he wouldn’t allow him to suffer the indignity of being purged from the roster like some undrafted rookie free agent.

So Rice was added to the 53-man roster. Sure, it came at someone’s expense — it may have cost Matt Mauck, Dorsett Davis or Quentin Griffin a job — but that can be excused in Rice’s case.

Now Rice is free to walk away from the game on his terms. He can decide what course of action to take next — either return to the Broncos with a diminished role or retire. Rice slipped back to his home in the Bay area Saturday to ponder his options.

There’s really not much to ponder; it’s time, Jerry.

Rice has run enough routes, caught enough passes, ruined the confidence of enough defensive backs that he doesn’t need to prove anything more. Father time has allowed cornerbacks to finally be able to cover him. There’s no disgrace in admitting that. Only some things are better with age — like a good cabernet or pinot — so this wasn’t his fault.

Rice doesn’t need to be the Broncos’ fourth or fifth option. He doesn’t need to catch five passes this season, which Denver’s fourth receiver has averaged over the last five years. He’s done enough for this game.

Walk away, Jerry. We’ll forget you wore No. 19, although jerseys around town may not make that completely possible. We’ll forget your routes weren’t as crisp, you ran like you were stuck in molasses and that Charlie Adams and Todd Devoe outplayed you in the preseason.

Instead, we’ll remember you as No. 80. And you will forever be synonymous with that number. Kind of like John Elway and No. 7, Michael Jordan and No. 23 and Rafael Palmeiro and No. 25. Wait, scratch the last one.

Rice will always be the standard every receiver from this day forward will be measured against, which isn’t fair. No one can live up to his legacy.

This is just my opinion, but Rice is the greatest player, regardless of position, to ever play the game.

But it’s time, Jerry. Choose the retirement option.

Rice has caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns, all NFL benchmarks. He also has 23,540 yards from scrimmage, which is the equivalent of 14.7 miles.

Why come back to Denver. So you can get 200 receiving touchdowns? So you can add a few more yards to your already impressive resume?

Resist the temptation. You missed part of camp last week to help your daughter, Jaqui, move onto the Georgetown campus for the start of her freshman year. That’s what Jerry Rice should be about these days; not catching passes as the Broncos’ fourth, probably closer to fifth, receiver.

Go play more golf. Rice is a great, surprise, surprise, golfer. He even made the final cut at the 1997 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Watch your son, Jerry Jr., play football. The son definitely inherited his father’s talent.

Hang out with your wife, Jackie. Take her to dinner, maybe a few movies or a vacation. Make up for all the quality time that football robbed you of in the past.

Do anything, but don’t come back to football. You don’t need it any longer. You’ve set 16 regular-season records, nine postseason marks, 11 Super Bowl records and two Pro Bowl records. You were the first overall pick in the 1985 USFL draft by the Birmingham Stallions. You set 18 NCAA Division II records during your four-year career at Mississippi Valley State University.

Your name and greatness will forever be linked.

Don’t come back, Jerry. Chose retirement.

And find as much enjoyment in your life as you’ve given us by watching you play.

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