The GOAT debate is always difficult in football, because it’s tremendously hard to pick a best player ever when every position on the field is so unique. However, Jerry Rice’s sturdy dominance and stunning longevity — not to mention records for most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns — makes it hard to dispute claims that he stands above all other wideouts.
Rice is quick to note he played at a different time filled with different rules. A simpler time? That’s always how it looks in the rearview, but compared to the moment the NFL is having right now, that might be the case. Nonetheless, Rice still love football in all forms, even if it’s changed a bit in recent years.
UPROXX Sports spoke with Rice about today’s game, contemporary receivers, why he never got into coaching, and his changed views regarding Colin Kaepernick while he was promoting a Punt, Pass, and Kick clinic for Marriott and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) through their Master Classes program.
Let’s start by talking about the clinic, what’s that all about?
Jerry Rice: Well the Punt, Pass, and Kick, that’s my Master Class. I’m looking forward to that, it’s going to be December 17, and it’s going to be in Atlanta, Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s my opportunity to be hands-on with the fans. I’m looking forward to going out there, working with the rewards members and also passing on some of the knowledge that helped me become one of the best football players to ever play the game.
Do you do a lot of teaching on the side? Why is it that you never progressed to a more formal role on the sidelines as a coach?
I do a lot of teaching on the side, but I dedicated myself to the game so much that I wanted to really watch my kids grow up and be a part of that. Maybe eventually, down the road, that might be something that I decide to do, become a head coach. But it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. It takes a lot of time too.
I saw video of you running routes with the 49ers last year. Obviously, you’re in amazing physical shape still and you always were as a player. But when you look at the game, you look at the draft, and the combine, is there too much emphasis on raw skills and not enough on technique?
Well, you know it’s up to them to really decide that. But I was never a big fan of the 40-yard dash. As football players, it’s all about stop and go. You never run just straight ahead. I think a lot of these players go to these running camps and they learn how to run 40 and they run a good time. Then all these organizations are so excited about these football players, but once they put on that uniform and get on the football field, then when it’s stop and go, they don’t look as fast. I was one of those guys that just went out, and I just worked on my route running, being explosive and trying to just finish place.
Any receivers in particular that you’re a fan of? Anybody that reminds you of yourself?
Man, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green, Odell Beckham, you know, all those guys.
There’s a lot of daylight between you and the nearest competition when it comes to the receiving touchdowns record. Do you think someone will eventually break that record?
Records were made to be broken. You’re going to have to sacrifice. You’re going to have to work hard if you want to play the game for a long time. And I loved playing football. That was it, it was exciting to me. I enjoyed going to training camp with those two-a-days and everything that came along with playing this great game for such a long time. But I think records are meant to be broken. It’s more of a passing league. The ball’s in the air. You’re going to have receivers put up outstanding numbers.
If you were in your prime and playing the game as it is today with all the rule changes, how do you think you’d do?
Well, the rules are totally different now. It’s going to protect players just a little bit more. But I think I played at a time where the game was a little bit more physical. Guys could take shots, and even if the ball was not coming in my direction, I was still taking shots on the opposite side.
NFL ratings are on the downswing a little bit. How can the league combat that?
Well, that’s a good question. I think we still love the game of football, it’s just that there are so many rules now. It’s hard for the officials to make calls. Any hit below the knees or around the head, there’s going to be a flag. But I think players have to continue to go out and showcase their abilities, show their love for the game of football, and just win football games.
How do you feel about how the league has (at times) pushed back on political statements?
Well, you know, I think the thing with Colin Kaepernick, he was trying to bring awareness to social justice. I think the thing is, he did a great job of that. Now with Nike taking him on, it’s more of a symbol now. It’s not about the individual. It is not about the anthem. I don’t think Colin Kaepernick was trying to disrespect the military or the anthem. As a whole, there are some issues that we have to address that we all have to come together on.