Wide receiver Jerry Rice officially will become a member of the Seattle Seahawks today, provided that he passes a physical and the league approves a trade agreed to late Monday night sending the NFL's career receiving leader from the Oakland Raiders to Seattle for a conditional seventh-round draft choice.
The question is whether the Seahawks, a team that has demonstrated the capability to be among the league's top clubs, are getting a player who can help them.
Rice turned 42 last week. He had only five catches for 67 yards and no touchdowns in the Raiders' six games this season. He had no receptions in three of Oakland's games, including the last two. Quarterback Kerry Collins didn't even throw a single pass in Rice's direction in last Sunday's 31-3 loss at home to the Denver Broncos.
Rice became a major problem for first-year Raiders coach Norv Turner, complaining regularly about his diminished role and saying last week that he wanted to be traded or released. He met with Raiders owner Al Davis last week to discuss the issue, and the club was fortunate that it got anything at all in return for Rice. Oakland gets a seventh-round pick if Rice meets playing-time benchmarks in Seattle. No other teams appeared interested in him, not even Detroit. The Lions are coached by Steve Mariucci, who coached Rice in San Francisco, and lost wideout Charles Rogers for the season because of a broken collarbone, but said they weren't interested in trying to acquire Rice.
But it was only last season that Rice led the Raiders with 63 catches for 869 yards. And the deal reunites him with Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren, an assistant coach in San Francisco for part of Rice's glorious tenure with the 49ers. Holmgren was San Franciso's quarterbacks coach from 1986 to '88 and its offensive coordinator between 1989 and '91. Rice visited the Seahawks after he was released by the 49ers in 2001 but remained in the Bay Area by signing with the Raiders instead.
Seattle has a solid trio of wideouts in Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram. But Engram is nursing a sprained ankle and could miss Sunday's game at Arizona, and Robinson reportedly is facing a four-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Rice had 243 catches for 3,286 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons plus six games for the Raiders after amassing 1,281 receptions for 19,247 yards and 176 touchdowns in 16 seasons with the 49ers.
The Raiders announced late Monday that they'd agreed to the trade, pending a physical and league approval. The deal enables Oakland to move forward with its youth movement at receiver, using Doug Gabriel, Ronald Curry and Alvis Whitted to split the playing time opposite Jerry Porter. The Raiders released another Hall of Fame-bound wide receiver, Tim Brown, in training camp.
Brown signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has 19 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown in six games. The Rice trade came as Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL most valuable player, said Monday that he wouldn't play again this season because of a broken vertebra in his neck suffered during a game last month. Gannon turns 39 in December but did not rule out attempting to play next season.
The NFL's trading deadline is 4 p.m. today, and the Dallas Cowboys beat the deadline this afternoon by sending Antonio Bryant to Cleveland for Quincy Morgan in a swap of wide receivers. The Cowboys kept Bryant after an incident in which he threw his jersey into the face of Coach Bill Parcells in a heated confrontation during an offseason practice, but Bryant apparently remained displeased with his role in the offense. The third-year pro had 16 catches for 266 yards this season. Morgan had nine receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns this season for the Browns.
There perhaps could be another deal or two league-wide. The Kansas City Chiefs apparently remain interested in parting with second-year tailback Larry Johnson, a first-round draft selection last year who has been unhappy being stuck behind Priest Holmes and, more recently, Derrick Blaylock on the depth chart. He doesn't have a rushing attempt or a catch this season and perhaps could be sent to Tampa for holdout receiver Keenan McCardell. The Buccaneers, whose record dropped to 1-5 with Monday night's loss to the St. Louis Rams, also could listen to offers for demoted quarterback Brad Johnson. Buccaneers officials have said they don't intend to trade McCardell or Johnson.
T.O. vs. Garcia
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens undoubtedly will have plenty to say this week about Sunday's game at Cleveland in which his new team will face his former quarterback in San Francisco, Jeff Garcia. But Owens, who never has been bashful about criticizing Garcia, said after the Eagles' triumph over the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday: "If you look at my stats, look at what I've done with our No. 5 [Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb], I don't have to say a word.'' . . . The Eagles are the only team in the league to have had a lead at the conclusion of every quarter of every game this season.
Bears' QB Job Up for Grabs
No one who saw Jonathan Quinn's dreadful performance in Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins should be surprised that Coach Lovie Smith put the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback job up for grabs Monday. Quinn will take about 60 percent of the snaps with the starting offense in practice this week but rookie Craig Krenzel, a fifth-round draft pick out of Ohio State, will get about 40 percent of the work and could start Sunday against the Buccaneers.
"We're going to go through the week with both quarterbacks and will decide later on who's going to do what,'' Smith said during a news conference.
Chad Hutchinson, signed three weeks ago after Rex Grossman's season-ending knee injury, still is learning the offense. Quinn, elevated to the starting job when Grossman got hurt, completed 10 of 22 passes for 65 yards against the Redskins. . . .
Lions rookie wide receiver Roy Williams was on Detroit's active roster for Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers but didn't play because of a sprained ankle. He tested his ankle in pregame warmups but couldn't cut effectively. The Lions are hopeful he'll be ready to play Sunday against the New York Giants. Detroit also could get a bigger contribution this week from rookie tailback Kevin Jones, who had two carries for five yards against the Packers after being sidelined for one game because of a sprained ankle. . . .
The Cowboys elevated veteran cornerback Tyrone Williams into the starting lineup, ahead of rookie Jacques Reeves, for Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. But the problem for Dallas was the play of its would-be top cornerback, Terence Newman, who surrendered nine catches for 108 yards in the game. . . .
Dallas safety Darren Woodson is eligible to practice this week but isn't ready to do so as he continues to recover from preseason back surgery. Woodson is on the physically unable to perform list, giving him three more weeks to return to practice or he must be placed on the injured reserve list, making him ineligible to play for the Cowboys this season. . . .
Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 21-for-25, 193-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception passing day against the Cowboys raised his passer rating for the season to 100.1, second in the AFC to the 114.1 of the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning. . . .
The Steelers suffered a significant loss on defense. They will be without nose tackle Casey Hampton for the remainder of the season because of a torn knee ligament. He likely will be replaced by Chris Hoke. The Steelers also are awaiting word on the severity of a knee injury suffered by cornerback Chad Scott. . . .
Colts safety Mike Doss practiced Monday and could return to the lineup this week after missing four games because of a pulled hamstring. Rookie safety Bob Sanders participated in his first practice of the season for Indianapolis. The second-round draft pick has been working his way back from a stress fracture in his foot. . . .
San Francisco quarterback Tim Rattay continues to struggle with injuries. Coach Dennis Erickson revealed Monday that Rattay played in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets despite suffering a strained muscle in his right forearm in practice Friday that made it difficult to grip the ball. Since inheriting the starting quarterback job when the 49ers released Garcia in the offseason, Rattay has been plagued by a torn groin muscle, a sore arm and a separated shoulder, but he is the NFC's third-rated passer. The 49ers have a bye this week and expect Rattay to start against the Bears on Halloween.
Bennett to return this week?
Minnesota tailback Michael Bennett, sidelined all season because of a knee injury, could return this week, but the Vikings are planning to start rookie Mewelde Moore against Tennessee on Sunday. . . .
Denver tight end Dwayne Carswell was suspended for one game by the league for violating the personal conduct policy. He plead guilty to battery and was sentenced to one year of probation after a domestic incident last year involving his girlfriend. . . .
Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis is taking a more hands-on approach with a Cincinnati defense that ranks last in the league against the run and 26th overall. Lewis helped to formulate the game plan with defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, did much of the defensive-play calling last weekend and dealt directly with the team's defensive players on the sideline.
"Our guys were looking for something a little different,'' Lewis said during his news conference Monday. "Everyone wants to question what we're running. I took that question of doubt out of everyone's mind. It's not what is called, but how you execute what is called. I wanted to give the players a little heightened attention to that.''
It didn't help much. The Bengals surrendered 449 yards in a 34-17 loss to Cleveland that dropped their record to 1-4. The Cincinnati defense ranked 28th in the league last year in Lewis's first season as an NFL head coach after highly successful stints as a defensive coordinator in Baltimore and Washington.
Lewis continues to stick by second-year quarterback Carson Palmer even though the top overall selection in last year's draft is only the 30th-rated passer in the league, behind even Baltimore's much-maligned Kyle Boller. Palmer has thrown twice as many interceptions (eight) as touchdown passes (four), and veteran Jon Kitna played well last season in leading the Bengals to a record of 8-8. Lewis said when he announced the starting-quarterback switch in the offseason that he would switch back if the Bengals were losing games because of Palmer, but Lewis said Monday that the team's problems are far more widespread.