AFC West: Jerry Rice

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reece will play for Team Sanders in this weekend's Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Reece
Reece, the lone Raiders player selected to the NFL's re-imagined all-star game, was one of two fullbacks selected, along with Carolina Panthers All-Pro Mike Tolbert. And when Team Rice selected Tolbert, Reece went to Deion Sanders' team.

“That's who we want,” Sanders said on the NFL Network's broadcast of the Pro Bowl Draft's Day 1 Tuesday evening. “We love him because he's not getting the ball. All we want him to do is block, for that man over there.”

Sanders pointed to team co-captain Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Reece, who is making his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, garnered a more positive scouting report, of sorts, from Jerry Rice.

“Marcel Reece, I feel like he can do everything,” Rice said. “He can come out of the backfield, he can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he can do all those things. But then when it comes down to really blocking guys, I feel like Mike Tolbert, he's the guy.”

Indeed, Reece is the more versatile offensive threat, with 549 yards from scrimmage this season, including four touchdowns as the only Raiders player with a score by ground as well as by air.

Tolbert, meanwhile, rushed for 361 yards and five TDs on 101 attempts and led the Panthers with seven scores.

The Indianapolis Colts' staff, with coach Chuck Pagano, will coach Team Sanders while the Carolina Panthers and coach Ron Rivera will head up Team Rice.

More Nick Foles-to-Chiefs talk

February, 19, 2013
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In an Insider piece, KC Joyner pegs the Chiefs as the best trade fit for Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles.

That, of course, makes total sense because the Chiefs are now coached by Andy Reid. Yes, the guy who drafted Foles in the third round last year who made Foles his starting quarterback last season.

If the Eagles are open to trading Foles at a reasonable price, I can totally see this fit.

In other AFC West news:
This is why it was so important for Bill Callahan to strike back. It is giving him a chance to see this stunning story to go away.

Late Tuesday night, the former Oakland head coach -- whose ethics were put into question by former Oakland receiver Tim Brown -- came at Brown hard with a statement. In it, Callahan said he was outraged by the allegation from Brown that Callahan sabotaged the Raiders’ chances of winning the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay 10 years ago so his Callahan's friend Jon Gruden could beat Oakland. Gruden was previously Oakland’s head coach, and Callahan replaced him.

[+] EnlargeTim Brown
Steve Grayson/Getty ImagesTim Brown says his recent comments regarding former coach Bill Callahan were blown out of proportion by the media.
Some former Oakland teammates, including Jerry Rice, backed up Brown’s claims that Callahan, now an assistant in Dallas, changed the Raiders' offensive game plan late in the week before the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay. None went as far as Brown did in his claims though. Other teammates, including quarterback Rich Gannon, backed Callahan.

Callahan said Brown’s words were defamation, and he called for Brown to retract his words immediately.

Wednesday morning, Brown basically did.

In an interview that was as almost as outrageous as the interview in which Brown made the stunning allegations, Brown said this on the Dan Patrick Show: "I have never said that he sabotaged the game. All I was saying after the game was, you know, the question was asked about this situation, but no one ever said -- and I said on the radio show last Saturday night -- that's something that could never be proven. We can't go inside the mind of Bill Callahan and say, 'Oh, yeah, we knew exactly what he was thinking, what he was trying to do.' All I'm saying is, the question was asked. But of course the media hears 'sabotage' and 'Bill Callahan' and 'throwing the football game,' now they're saying 'throwing the football game' and that terminology was never used. But that wasn't the intent."

Saturday, Brown started the firestorm by saying this on SiriusXMRadio: "We all called it sabotage ... because Callahan and Gruden were good friends," Brown said. "And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come."

Brown kept his original stance in interviews with multiple media outlets Tuesday before Callahan struck back. Once Callahan countered Brown, the outspoken receiver backtracked.

Here’s a personal message from me to Brown: Own your words, sir.

I’m sure Brown was surprised that his comments attracted so much attention. But that is a na´ve approach. In today’s world, such strong allegations are going to be get the attention. That’s the media’s job, not its fault. If Brown didn’t think Callahan “sabotaged” Oakland, then why did he say it in the first place?

Unless Brown wants to restoke the fire, or unless another teammate wants to say that Callahan threw the game, this story could be winding down. Callahan surely didn’t win the Super Bowl 10 years ago, but he might end up winning this battle.

I know some people have suggested this controversy will hurt Brown’s chances of being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a finalist. The vote is Feb. 2. I’m not sure it will play a huge role. Brown was a considered a long shot to be elected this year, and I don’t think this silliness should effect his candidacy either way.
The NFL world was waiting for Bill Callahan to respond to serious allegations levied against him by former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown.

Tuesday night, Callahan -- now an assistant coach in Dallas -- came back with a response in a long statement. This wasn’t a typical stale, robotic statement. Callahan expressed deep sadness and anger -- and used a couple of legal buzzwords as well.

Brown suggested that Callahan "sabotaged" the Raiders' chances of winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Brown said Callahan essentially tanked the game because he wanted his good friend and former Oakland coach Jon Gruden, in his first season in Tampa Bay, to win. The Buccaneers won 48-21. ESPN analyst Jerry Rice backed Brown's claims based on Callahan changing the game plan late in the week before the Super Bowl. A number of Oakland players, including former quarterback Rich Gannon, have taken Callahan's side.

Here is Callahan’s statement via ESPNDallas.com:

“There are many people who are disappointed by the outcome of Super Bowl XXVII, but none more than me. While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last 24 hours.

"To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involved the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory.

"I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the lucky few, sustains us in adulthood. Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicate my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat-out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all including the game America loves that these allegations be retracted immediately.

"I want to extend my personal and my family’s deep appreciation to the coaches, players and fans that have come forward and thoughtfully spoken out against these ill-conceived allegations.”


The fact that Callahan used the word “defamatory” and asked for the allegations to be “retracted immediately” leaves open the question of whether Callahan plans legal action. Unless Brown can prove his allegations in a court of law, Brown could have created a headache for himself.

Now that Callahan has struck back hard, it will be interesting to see if Brown continues to make the claims or if he backs off.

Jerry Rice takes Tim Brown's side

January, 22, 2013
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The Tim Brown-Bill Callahan head-scratching story has gained new legs.

Jerry Rice backed up Brown’s claims that Callahan sabotaged Oakland’s chances before its 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl 10 year ago. Brown said Callahan changed the team’s offensive game plan late in the week and the team couldn’t adjust. Brown suggested Callahan did it because he wanted his friend and former Oakland coach Jon Gruden to win the game instead of himself and his team.

Rice said on ESPN's "NFL Live" on Tuesday that the game plan was changed and he thought it was “unusual.” Rice said he believed Brown because he was in Oakland for several years and he knew the pulse of the team.

Several other Oakland players, including quarterback Rich Gannon, did not believe Callahan purposely hurt his team. Linebacker Bill Romanowski called Brown “delusional.”

Callahan, now a Dallas assistant, has to address this situation immediately. The only thing at stake here is his reputation. The outcome of the game will not change and Brown’s words are just words. Callahan must defend himself now. If he keeps quiet, the questions will get louder.

This story will eventually go away because it is 10 years old and there isn’t anything tangible attached to it other than opinions. In the end, there is one reason why I think Callahan is in the clear: Al Davis didn’t fire him after the game. If Davis had any inkling that Callahan threw the game, Callahan would have been bounced immediately.
I won’t make it a habit to disagree with Jerry Rice about the wide receiver position. I think it makes good sense to defer to the greatest receiver of all-time on the subject.

However, on NFL Live on Tuesday, the ESPN analyst said something I can’t be on board with -- Terrell Owens would fit in with the Oakland Raiders.

Asked if he thought Owens would fit in with an NFL team, Rice said he thought the Raiders would be a fit because they could use a veteran to go along with their several young receivers.

Adding fuel to the possibility, of course, is Owens is friends and former teammates with Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer. Owens worked out with Palmer and some Oakland receivers this offseason.

Still, I don’t like the fit.

The Raiders are going in a new direction in leadership and I think a player like Owens would not be a good addition to the locker room to start the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era. Owens can be a distraction. The Raiders don’t need any distractions.

Plus, Owens is 38 and he did not play in the NFL in 2011. Where’s the appeal here?

Rice is right that Oakland’s receiving crew is young. But these players need to play and develop. Having Owens taking away repetitions from the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and rookie Juron Criner just doesn’t make sense to me.

Again, it’s not wise to argue the reviver position with Jerry Rice. But I think it would be less wise for Oakland to pursue Owens.
The heat is turning up for San Diego coach Norv Turner.

The team many pegged to win the AFC West is 4-6 after losing five straight games. If the Chargers end up with a losing record and out of the playoffs for the second straight year, there will be major calls in San Diego for Turner’s five-season era in San Diego to end in about six weeks.

With Turner’s support waning, one of the greatest players ever to play in the NFL said Monday he thinks it's time for Turner to go. ESPN analyst Jerry Rice played for Turner in Oakland in 2004. This is what Rice said about Turner on “SportsCenter” earlier Monday:

“He’s still not going to be the coach who gets you over the hump.”

Rice said unlike his legendary San Francisco coach Bill Walsh, Turner doesn’t give players “incentive” to win. Rice also said he believes the struggles of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers -– he has thrown 17 interceptions this season -– falls on Turner.

Will Rice’s thoughts have an effect on Turner’s future? No, of course, not. But expect similar views to be expressed if the Chargers’ control to spin out of control this season.

Adding more heat to Turner is a San Diego Union Tribune story that says that Turner’s clock management issues will be reviewed by the team and he added more evidence to the issue in a loss at Chicago on Sunday.

Putting another spin on Tebow Time

October, 21, 2011
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On "NFL Live" Friday, ESPN analyst Jerry Rice explained that when the 49ers transitioned from Joe Montana to Steve Young at quarterback, Rice and his fellow receivers had to make an adjustment to the left-handed Young.

Rice said the spin of the ball is different when thrown by a left-handed quarterback than it is with a right-handed quarterback. Left-handed quarterbacks are rare; Rice said it took a lot of repetitions for him to get used to Young’s ball.

Why is this important now?

Well, Rice was talking about how Denver’s receivers will adjust to life with new starting quarterback Tim Tebow. Like Young, Tebow is a lefty.

Shortly after Denver drafted Tebow in 2010, I did a column on left-handed quarterbacks and how their teammates must adjust to them. In the end, everyone involved said the adjustment period is initially awkward but it doesn’t last long.

In other AFC West news:

Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel is happy for college roommate Carson Palmer’s opportunity in Oakland.

The Broncos feel healthy heading into Sunday’s game at Miami.

Sleepless in London

October, 28, 2010
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Unlike the San Francisco 49ers, who flew to London earlier this week, the Denver Broncos opted to practice at home for three days before heading out to London on Thursday.

It is going to be a short, crammed trip and the key, according to Denver coach Josh McDaniels, is for the team to sleep as much as possible in the eight-hour flight to London. Once the Broncos’ land in London, they’ll be in work mode despite losing a lot of time while in the air.

“We’re telling them to sleep on the plane as much as possible and we’re going to try to aid that in any way that we can,” McDaniels said. “Once we’re there, we’re trying to treat it like a normal Friday. We’re not going to have them sleeping until noon or 1 p.m. -- that would be probably the worst thing we can do to try to get acclimated for Sunday. Once we’re there, there’s no time (to sleep), there’s no choice. We’re going to go meet and go walk-through and then come back and then we have a curfew (Friday) night.”

McDaniels said five injured players will not accompany the team to London and they will stay in Denver to rehabilitate. The players are cornerback Perrish Cox, defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, safety Darcel McBath, linebacker Robert Ayers and linebacker Wesley Woodyard. None of these decisions were surprises.

Meanwhile, legendary Broncos quarterback John Elway will serve as an honorary captain and be with the team during the coin flip. Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice will accompany the 49ers.

HOF has an AFC West feel

August, 7, 2010
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Take some time on your Saturday to check out the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

There is an AFC West feel to the ceremony, that begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Former Denver running back Floyd Little is finally being inducted.

Little recently said he gave up on ever getting inducted. But he is in Canton, Ohio awaiting induction. Well deserved.

Even the headliner of the 2010 class, Jerry Rice, has AFC West history. He was with Oakland for three-plus seasons and was very productive for a time for the Silver and Black. Rice retired in the preseason of 2005 as a member of the Denver Broncos, but he never played in a regular-season game for Denver.

Congrats to Little and Rice and the rest of the 2010 HOF class.
The AFC West had four chances to be represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only Floyd Little made it.

Let’s look at the other three people who didn’t get voted in:

Oakland receiver Tim Brown

What happened: He didn’t make it to the final 10.

Why: There is a glut of receivers. With Jerry Rice (who spent four years in Oakland and who retired while with Denver) a shoo-in, Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed suffered.

Will he get in? Sure, but it may take some time. Carter has been waiting three years and he and Reed will likely get in before Brown.


San Diego coach Don Coryell

What happened: He didn’t make it to the final 10.

Why: This was a very stacked class. Ultimately, getting a coach in who never went to the Super Bowl was too difficult of a task.

Will he get in? Maybe someday, but it may be difficult.


Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe

What happened: He made it to the list of 10, but didn’t make the final cut.

Why: Like Brown, Sharpe suffered because of the logjam of receivers. Many voters considered him a receiver even though he was a tight end.

Will he get in? He has to, doesn’t he? I’ve been surprised that Sharpe didn’t make it in both years of his eligibility.

AFC West Hall of Fame primer

February, 5, 2010
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Tim Brown, Floyd Little, Shanon SharpeGetty Images/US PresswireTim Brown, Floyd Little and Shannon Sharpe all have compelling cases to be Hall of Famers, but can they make the cut for this class?
There are four men who spent the majority of their careers in the AFC West who are among the 17 finalists being considered for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The results of the voting will be announced at 5 p.m. ET Saturday.

We spent the week researching each finalist’s chances by talking to several members of the voting committee and several league observers.

Here is a look at each finalist’s case:

Tim Brown: Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, wide receiver, 1988 to 2003

Known for: He was the face of the Raiders for years. He was a standout receiver and return man. The Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame was one of Oakland’s best draft picks ever. He was a reliable, smart player.

AFC West body of work: Of his 1,094 career catches, 1,070 came as a Raider. Brown, who played his final NFL season in Tampa Bay, caught at least 80 passes nine times and he had nine 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons.

Quote from a voter: “He posted great numbers but those have to be placed in context with the era in which he played. He'll get in but maybe not this year.”

Scouts Inc.’s take: “I think he’ll probably get in, but I rank Cris Carter slightly ahead of him. If Jerry Rice is a 10, Carter is an 8.5 and Brown is an 8. Brown was excellent but I don’t think you could ever say he was the best player at his position. I’m not sure if he was really special or if he had a defining moment, But he was remarkably consistent and he helped on special teams. He never had any glaring weaknesses and he moved the chains. He ran every route.” -- Matt Williamson

What I think will happen: A couple of years ago, I would have thought Brown was a slam-dunk choice in his first year of eligibility. But the voting committee has very high standards for receivers and there is a backlog of quality eligible receivers. With Rice (who played four seasons in Oakland and who announced his retirement at the Broncos’ facility after a fruitless preseason in Denver) a shoo-in and Carter, Andre Reed and tight end Shannon Sharpe making a push, Brown may not make it in his first year. If not this year, he’ll get in sometime because he was so consistent. Because his numbers were never truly jaw-dropping, he may have to wait in a long receiver line for a couple of years.

[+] EnlargeDon Coryell
Al Messerschmidt/NFL/Getty ImagesDon Coryell was 69-56 during his nine seasons coaching in San Diego.
Don Coryell: San Diego, coach, 1978 to 1986

Known for: Coryell is credited with being a major innovator in the passing game, earning him the nickname "Air Coryell." Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts credits his career to Coryell.

AFC West body of work: The Chargers were virtually unstoppable in the air under Coryell. San Diego changed the way the division played both offense and defense in an effort to keep up with the innovative Coryell.

Quote from a voter: “I'm a big Coryell fan. He won a lot of games … Sure, he didn't win a Super Bowl, but he changed the way the game was played.”

Scouts Inc.’s take: “He was ahead of his time in the down-field passing game. He was a terrific, student of the game. He understood matchups and defenses. Coryell was that first guy to say, “Let’s go vertical and make some big plays.” He still has an influence on the game.” -- Gary Horton

What I think will happen: Coryell is the only coach among the finalists. I think he will have a large group of voters behind him. I think many voters were impressed by the letter of support sent by Fouts in support of his former coach. Still, this is a very strong class and Coryell could be left on the outside. He is not a shoo-in.

Floyd Little: Denver, running back, 1967 to 1975

Known for: Little was one of Denver’s first true stars. He was the face of the franchise when he played.

AFC West body of work: He led the NFL in rushing from 1968 to 1973. When he retired, he was the seventh leading rusher in NFL history with 6,323 yards rushing and he had 54 touchdowns.

Quote from a voter: “One of the great running backs of his era. He played on some bad teams and never ran behind a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. He deserves to be in.”

Scouts Inc.’s take: “I’ve talked to Tom Jackson (former Denver star linebacker and current ESPN analyst) and he loves Floyd. Floyd was a tough, hard-nosed runner. He was the heart and soul of that team.” -- Gary Horton

What I think will happen: Little may have the best chance of the four AFC West finalists. He is a senior’s committee finalist, so his path Saturday may be easier than the 15 traditional finalists. If Little doesn’t make it Saturday, he likely never will. I expect him to get in.

Shannon Sharpe: Denver, tight end, 1990 to 1999 and 2002 to 2003

Known for: Sharpe was one of the most accomplished receiving tight ends in NFL history. The boisterous Sharpe was a self-made player from a small school who was a huge part of Denver’s two Super Bowl winning teams.

AFC West body of work: Sharpe had 671 of his 815 catches in the AFC West. He had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons and two seasons in which he had 10 touchdowns.

Quote from a voter: “Crazy numbers for a tight end, and I think he'll be on the edge of making it this year.”

Scouts Inc.’s take: “Sharpe should go in. He was a massive liability as a blocker but nobody cared. Tight ends don’t go to the Hall of Fame because they blocked well. In a way, he revolutionized the game because he was a wide receiver as much as he was a tight end. He was the Dallas Clark of his era. He was very tough and he was a very hard worker who overcame coming into the league as a small-school guy. I think that gets overlooked because he is so loud and brash. But he was a hard worker who was on a lot of great teams. He was a difference-maker.” -- Matt Williamson

What I think will happen: I was surprised that Sharpe didn’t make it last year in his first year of eligibility. He was one of the best tight ends ever to play in the NFL. I think he may get in this season. But if some voters look at him as a receiver, he could get lost in the shuffle again.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 25 semifinalists for enshrinement in 2010. The vote will be in February. Seven people who spent a significant part of their career in the AFC West are among the 25 finalists.

Here they are:

Cliff Branch, WR: 1972-85 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Will he get in? Branch did not get this far last year. He is a favorite of Oakland owner Al Davis. But it is a loaded receiver group this year.

Tim Brown, WR: 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

Will he get in? Brown should be a first-ballot shoo-in.

Don Coryell, coach: 1978-86 San Diego Chargers

Will he get in? The passing-game genius will have a lot of support. He’s the only coach in the final 25.

Terrell Davis, RB: 1995-2001 Denver Broncos.

Will he get in? Davis will eventually get in, but it may be a while.

Ray Guy, P: 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.

Will he get in? Guy is the center of much contention. Many believe he shouldn't even be a finalist and many think he should already be in the Hall.

Lester Hayes, CB: 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Will he get in? He was a game changer, and you can make a strong argument for him.

Shannon Sharpe, TE: 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos

Will he get in? The voting committee needs to correct its mistake from last year and get this guy into Canton.

Notable: Former Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler made the final 25 last year, but did not this year. Receiver Jerry Rice spent four years in Oakland and will waltz into the Hall on his first ballot. Former Denver running back Floyd Little is a senior committee finalist.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The buzz surrounding the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting this week was that former Denver star tight end Shannon Sharpe could have difficulty being elected in his first year of eligibility.

  Sharpe

I talked to Sharpe about what he thought would happen early in the week. He said he heard the buzz as well.

Saturday that buzz became reality. Sharpe, who won three Super Bowl rings (two with Denver and one with Baltimore), did not get elected into the Hall of Fame.

Sharpe said this week that making the Hall of Fame was "very important" to him and that being elected would cement his NFL legacy. But he admitted that he was preparing for the possibility of not making the cut.

"I will not go home and climb the tallest building in Atlanta and jump off it if I don't get in," Sharpe said. "But I'd like to get in very much."

Sharpe will undoubtedly be elected into the Hall at some point, but it could take a while. He is likely being considered as a receiver and there is already a logjam at receiver. He is competing with Cris Carter and Andre Reed and he will soon be competing with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.

I believe Sharpe should be judged as a tight end who changed the game, and he should be in the Hall of Fame. But his wait continues.

What makes the wait somewhat soothing for Sharpe is that he knows he's done all he can do.

"My stats aren't going to change," he said. "I've done everything I can and I am comfortable with that."

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