San Francisco's Jerry Rice, the most prolific receiver in NFL history, might not return to the 49ers next season because of the salary cap and personnel issues.
"I never thought I'd be in this predicament, but here I am," Rice said. "I think I'm looking at it with a very positive attitude and I'm working hard during practices, and I'm just trying to make the team for next year."
Rice will play the 15th home finale of his career Sunday night against the Redskins. San Francisco General Manager Bill Walsh told the Contra Costa Times that 49ers fans should not assume there will be a 16th.
"I really hope they account for the fact that it's not for certain that he'll play next year and that they'll respond accordingly," Walsh said this week. "[Rice] expects to play, but we never know, so this might be the last time they see him at home."
Rice, 37, leads the 49ers with 56 receptions and five touchdowns this season, though he is averaging a career-low 11.5 yards per catch. After injuring both knees since 1997, Rice said he finally is healthy and wants to be around to help the team bounce back from a disastrous season.
"I'm a San Francisco 49er, and I want to end that way and I want to come back next year," he said.
In many ways, Rice and quarterback Steve Young, 38, find themselves in similar positions. Both have expressed their intentions to play next season.
"The only way we can have them back is if we recalculate their contracts," Walsh said.
Rice is scheduled to count for $5.49 million next season and Young $8.1 million.