Rice and Bryant: What a Difference
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 22, 2006

IT WAS quite a Sunday for 49er receivers, past and present, as Jerry Rice was honored at halftime of the 49ers-Seahawks game and later that evening, Antonio Bryant was arrested on a DUI charge after reportedly driving his Lamborghini at speeds over 100 mph.

Bryant is hardly unique among modern athletes. A’s pitcher Esteban Loaiza had the same thing happen last season. You wonder why, with all that money they’re making, they don’t hire a limousine when they know they’re going to be drinking heavily.

Still, it does point up the difference in personalities between Rice and Bryant. Rice mostly kept his nose clean, though there was that “massage parlor” incident, and he really worked at his craft.

When Rice first came to the 49ers, he was an insecure young man who rushed back to his Mississippi home as soon as the season ended. With time, he became more accustomed to the Bay Area lifestyle, buying a year-round home here, and became more polished in the other areas of his life. Now, he’s even big on “Dancing on the Stars.”

He never lost his focus on the field, though. He worked and worked on improving his receiving skills. In practice and in games, he ran out all his patterns, even when he wasn’t the primary receiver. He took the offseason conditioning program started by Roger Craig and became so fit that he could play well into his 40s. A knee injury knocked him out in 1997 and robbed him of his breakaway speed, but he had developed his game so well, he could be an excellent possession receiver.

And, that’s why he’s regarded as the best receiver ever and has so many NFL receiving recods.

Bryant, by contrast, is still a diamond in the rough. He’s had temper problems going back to his college years and he still has trouble keeping his emotions under control.

He’s been frustrated this season because quarterback Alex Smith hasn’t looked his way very often. Smith obviously feels more comfortable with Arnaz Battle, with whom he’s played for two years. That’s a familiar pattern. Rice and Steve Young weren’t on the same page for a time when Young took over as the starting quarterback, but Rice eventually caught more touchdown passes from Young than Joe Montana. At Sunday’s ceremony, Rice asked that Young throw him one more pass at the end.

By next season, Smith and Bryant should be more comfortable together, and I would expect Bryant to be a more important part of the offense.

In the meantime, Bryant needs to work on his personal life. He might start by asking for advice from Rice.

JUST WONDERING: It would be interesting to know whether the 49ers or Raiders are buying up more tickets to get “sellouts” to have the games on home TV.

The 49ers have been doing this for the last 2-3 years. This is the first time the Raiders have been able to do it, because they now sell their own tickets.

For both teams, it makes sense. TV is a great selling tool – yes, even if your team is bad – and the Niners and Raiders gain from being on home TV. They also help out the local stations that carry their games because those stations sell advertising for the post-game shows. It doesn’t make much sense to have a post-game show if the game hasn’t been televised on that station, though Channel 4 did it with the Raiders one season.

RAIDERS WOES: I don’t understand why the Raiders are mystified when their free agents act exactly as they always have.

Randy Moss is the best example. He’s always had the reputation of a player who would only play his best when he felt like it, which is why the Minnesota Vikings were so eager to get rid of him. Now, Moss short-arms balls and talks on his radio show of leaving the Raiders. Surprise, surprise.

Aaron Brooks doesn’t have an attitude problem but he’s always been a player who can make spectacular plays but also some real bonehead plays when the game is on the line. So, why was anybody surprised when he hit a couple of big passes on the Raiders last drive against Kansas City – and then threw a game-ending interception on first down from the KC 8?

MADDENING: In every game I’ve seen this season, it seems there have been at least a couple of third down plays on which a receiver runs to a spot about two yards short of the first down marker and is tackled immediately after the catch. Sometimes, these are only two-yard completions. Why can’t the receiver stake out a position beyond the first down marker?

When Bill Walsh was coaching the 49ers, the phrase “yards after catch” became familiar because Walsh’s offense depended on receivers turning short- and medium-range passes into long gains with their running. But the 49ers receivers caught passes in stride in the middle of the field, where they had running room. Much different than being pinned on the sidelines, where a defensive back can make a tackle or push the receiver out of bounds.

GO, WARRIORS! I’m not making any predictions on the Warriors season, but they have been much more exciting to watch, as expected, under Don Nelson. That first quarter against Sacramento was the most fun to watch since, well, since Nelson was here last.

Nelson plays the guys who are doing the job, with no regard to contracts or reputations. Andris Biedrins hardly entered the picture when training camp opened but he’s getting most of the playing time in the middle because he’s deserved it. Michael Pietrus, a big disappointment last year, has thrived under Nelson’s system, as has second-year guard Monta Ellis. Mike Dunleavy played himself out of the starting lineup but has played much better coming off the bench, so he’s getting big minutes again.

ODD COUPLE: The unusual pairing of Bob Knight and Pete Newell will continue on Dec. 3 when Knight will receive, from Newell, the 2006 Pete Newell Challenge Career Achievement Award.

The 10th annual Pete Newell Challenge will be played at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. The first game will match Texas Tech and Stanford, the second Cal and Nevada.

The tempestuous Knight and the much more diplomatic Newell have been close friends for years. When he was coaching at Indiana, Knight brought his team out for the first Newell Challenge.

“Nobody in the history of the game has spoken at more clinics than Bobby,” said Newell, who celebrated his 91st birthday this year. “He really teaches the fundamental element to coaches, both in the country and around the world. He has always been open about sharing his knowledge of the game with coaches.”

Of course, that’s probably the major bond between the two men because nobody has given more to the game of basketball than Newell.


Tickets are available for the Pete Newell Challenge on this link. Big Game tickets will be available as well as tickets for these big college football games:
--Notre Dame at USC
--Auburn at Alabama
--Nebraska at USC
--Texas A& M at Texas
--USC at UCLA.
Tickets are also available for NFL games.

Tickets are available for the Bill Cosby concert in Phoenix on January 13. During the holiday season, tickets will be available for bowl games, including the Rose Bowl. There are also popular holiday programs, including Radio City Christmas, Wicked and Jersey Boys.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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