Triple Threat- 05/28/2000
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It's been several years now that the 49ers have fielded three of the best receivers in the league. Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and JJ Stokes have made up one of the most explosive offensive powers in the NFL. Factor in the right quarterback, and it's bombs away. The three receivers have already changed the way the West Coast Offense is played, almost negating the need for a receiving tight end. The problem though, is that with the aforementioned big three, along with Mark Harris, Tai Streets and possibly Chafie Fields, the 49ers may be to deep at the wide receiver position. Rice may be hindering the development of the younger wide receivers as etches more and more play time instead of following the reduced role pattern he agreed to abide by. While Rice may have been the leading receiver on the team last year, stats don't tell the whole story, and one has to wonder if the receiver should step aside.

Jerry Rice and the 49ers are currently working on a contract that would fit Rice under the cap for two more seasons. Keeping Rice on the team for the duration of his career is a good thing, but many believe that career should have been over after this years final game against Atlanta. Rice will not likely play out his entire contract (it ends in 2004), in fact Rice is only likely to play one more season with the 49ers. As much as it pains 49ers fans to say it, the situation may be better if it was over sooner rather than later.

In 1997, the year Rice endured his first injury of his career, receivers Terrell Owens and JJ Stokes stepped it up a beat. Proving that even as young players, they had the potential to be great in the NFL. As the season progressed, and the two learned more and more about the fundamentals of the game, their confidence grew. Upon Rice's return, December 10th against Denver, the 49ers were extremely excited to see what the three could do together. Their excitement did not go unsatisfied, as Denver crumbled to the hands of The Big Three.

It's three seasons later now. The 49ers are still relying on Rice, a player who was to reduce his role even after that season, to do the dirty work. As such Owens and Stokes have not been given the time to shine. Last season the 9ers stole Tai Streets in the draft. Streets showed tons of potential in college and in the few games he was active for last season. Couple all this with Mark Harris, a more than capable back up (that is reminiscent of Nate Singelton), and it's quite clear something has to give.

The 49ers intend on having Rice around for one more season. Anything more would really be pushing it (barring a record setting season). Rice's presence on the team may be inspiring but it is hindering the productivity of those under him on the depth chart.

It's the last hurrah and Rice should realize that. He should accept his reduced role, and help coach the players under him into better players. That more than anything should be Rice's role on this years team.
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