The totals so far for Jerry Rice's 20th NFL season are two games, two catches and two Monday meetings with the Oakland Raiders' first-year coach, Norv Turner.
Rice, the Hall of Fame-bound wide receiver, huddled with Turner the day after his league-record streak of catching at least one pass in 274 straight games was ended in the Raiders' 13-10 victory Sunday over the Buffalo Bills.
Turner avoided one difficult situation when the Raiders granted wideout Tim Brown's request to be released in training camp after Brown balked at being moved far down the depth chart. But Turner still must deal with the winding down of Rice's career, trying to be respectful toward probably the greatest receiver in the history of the sport while attempting to win by emphasizing the talents of the team's new top wideout, Jerry Porter, and its ascending group of young wide receivers -- Doug Gabriel, Ronald Curry and Alvis Whitted.
"I've got so much respect for Jerry and what he's done throughout his entire career,'' Turner said during a news briefing this week. "He's such a pro. I know that [Sunday] was hard on him.''
Rice didn't handle the end of his streak gracefully. After exiting the game with about 21/2 minutes left, he slammed his helmet to the ground on the sideline, kicked a yard marker and gestured toward Turner. He issued a public apology after the game, saying he'd let his competitiveness get the best of him and he simply would start a new streak.
Turner says he isn't intentionally phasing out Rice, who turns 42 next month. Rice had only one pass thrown in his direction by quarterback Rich Gannon on Sunday, and he's gone seven quarters without a reception since getting two catches in the first quarter of the Raiders' season-opening loss at Pittsburgh.
But, according to Turner, the ball was designed to go Rice's way on a curl pattern on the first play of Sunday's game, but was thrown to a tight end instead because of the Bills' coverage. Three or four other plays easily could have gone to Rice but didn't because of coverages, Turner said, and Porter was tackled for a loss on a trick play on which he was to throw the ball to Rice after a lateral.
Gabriel and Whitted also were shut out Sunday after each caught a touchdown pass in Pittsburgh. Curry had the big day against the Bills with five catches for 89 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown.
Said Turner: "I know Jerry recognizes we've got some good young receivers. . . . As we grow and continue to get better on offense, there's going to be spots for all of them.''
Rice last went without a catch in a game on Dec. 1, 1985 -- his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers -- against the Washington Redskins. Turner called the end of Rice's streak "unfortunate.'' He was reminded about Rice's streak by Raiders offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye during Sunday's game but did not order up a play specifically to give Rice a catch.
"We're at a point where the most important thing is for us to win a football game,'' Turner said. . . .
Turner says he will split the playing time at tailback between Tyrone Wheatley, Justin Fargas and Amos Zereoue against Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Raiders are averaging 2.8 yards per rushing attempt so far this season.
O'Donnell Says Steelers Called
Retired quarterback Neil O'Donnell said on WTVF-TV, the Nashville station for which he works, that Steelers Coach Bill Cowher contacted him about a possible return to Pittsburgh after Tommy Maddox's elbow injury last Sunday. But O'Donnell, who played for the Steelers between 1990 and '95, rejected the overture, just as he rejected offers from the New York Giants and New England Patriots in recent months. The Steelers are left with second-year pro Brian St. Pierre backing up rookie starter Ben Roethlisberger. . . .
San Francisco 49ers tailback Kevan Barlow underwent an MRI Wednesday on his sore right knee but seems likely to be in the lineup Sunday at Seattle. . . .
Minnesota placed right tackle Mike Rosenthal and tight end Jim Kleinsasser on the injured reserve list. The Vikings signed tight end Sean Berton, who is slated to split time with Richard Owens, with Kleinsasser done for the season and Jermaine Wiggins sidelined by a broken hand. Coach Mike Tice said that Adam Haayer will start in place of Rosenthal at right tackle, at least initially, but rookie Nat Dorsey also will be given playing time at the spot. The Vikings would like for Dorsey to win the job because the versatile Haayer can be a backup at several positions. Haayer had to face Philadelphia defensive end Jevon Kearse after Rosenthal got hurt Monday night, and Haayer and Dorsey must deal with Chicago's Adewale Ogunleye this weekend. . . .
The New York Jets placed defensive tackle Josh Evans, who underwent season-ending back surgery Wednesday, on the IR list. . . .
San Diego quarterback Drew Brees practiced Wednesday after being cleared by doctors. He suffered a mild concussion but should be in the lineup this weekend at Denver. The Chargers also should have tailback LaDainian Tomlinson even though he sat out Wednesday's practice because of a toe injury. He jammed it Sunday against the Jets. . . .
St. Louis signed free agent safety Kwamie Lassiter and is moving veteran Aeneas Williams from safety to his former position, cornerback, to compensate for injuries to Travis Fisher and DeJuan Groce. Lassiter should pick up the system quickly because he played for Rams defensive coordinator Larry Marmie in Arizona. The Rams hope the Lassiter signing works out better than their recent signings of veteran safeties Zack Bronson and Jason Sehorn. Bronson hurt his ankle and was placed on the IR list, and Sehorn failed his physical to negate his contract agreement. St. Louis released fullback Stephen Trejo. . . .
Cornerback Mike McKenzie likely will return to Green Bay's starting lineup this week after ending his holdout last week.
Holmes Could Be Out
Kansas City tailback Priest Holmes didn't practice Wednesday because of his sprained ankle and appears increasingly likely to miss Sunday's game against Houston. Derrick Blaylock would start and the Chiefs could give some carries to Larry Johnson although he is at odds with Coach Dick Vermeil after Vermeil said during his news conference Tuesday that the 2003 first-round draft pick would have to "take the diaper off'' to play this weekend. Johnson has been unhappy about his playing time throughout his brief Chiefs tenure. The 0-2 Chiefs also could be without wide receiver Eddie Kennison, who sat out Wednesday's practice because of a strained hamstring. . . .
Indianapolis tailback Edgerrin James didn't practice Wednesday because of his strained hamstring but might practice today. . . .
Atlanta tailback Warrick Dunn, who has a sprained knee, didn't participate in the Falcons' practice Wednesday. . . .
Jacksonville Coach Jack Del Rio said the team would place defensive end Paul Spicer on the IR list, ending his season. Spicer had vowed to play again this season even after breaking his leg Sunday in the Jaguars' win over the Broncos. But doctors found during surgery Tuesday that Spicer also tore ankle ligaments, and he is facing a recovery period of 12 to 14 weeks. The Jaguars likely will elevate Rob Meier to the starting lineup and could sign a free agent from among Chad Bratzke and Anton Palepoi. . . .
Reserve tailback Kevin Faulk has rejoined the New England Patriots. He left the team because of the death of his mother and missed the first two games of the season. He also has a knee injury, the severity of which is unclear. . . .
Chicago safety Mike Brown is scheduled to undergo surgery today for the torn Achilles tendon that ended his season. . . . The Bears will be without cornerback Jerry Tillman for seven to 10 weeks because of a hairline fracture to the soft tissue between his right knee and tibia. . . .
With the Cardinals having scored only 22 points in their two games, both losses, Coach Dennis Green brought in longtime associate Carl Hargrave as an offensive assistant. Hargrave worked for Green at Northwestern and with the Vikings. . . .
Carolina tailback Stephen Davis is vowing to return sooner rather than later from last week's knee surgery. The prognosis is for Davis to be sidelined two to five weeks but he told reporters it's possible he could return for an Oct. 3 game against Atlanta following the Panthers' bye this weekend. . . .
Detroit signed Vernon Fox and released fellow defensive back Chris Kern. . . .
Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sacked seven times Sunday by the Raiders. He has lost 12 of his last 16 starts for a Bills team that is 0-2 and has totaled only 20 points this season and must face the Patriots on Oct. 3 after a bye. But first-year coach Mike Mularkey indicated Wednesday that he has not considered going to backup Shane Matthews, and Bledsoe said in front of a group of reporters: "I'm the quarterback here and I'm going to be the quarterback here. . . . That's just simply the way it is.'' . . .
With reporters crowding around his locker Wednesday, Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey said he hasn't gotten comfortable yet with the new offensive system of Coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator John Hufnagel. Shockey, who has seven catches in the Giants' first two games, is being asked to block more and said he is "not the same player that I was a year ago'' and is "not having as much fun as I had in the past.''