Terrell Owens, one of the greatest receivers of all time, will be eligible for the Hall of Fame this year. Arguably the best wideout of his generation, Owens was a six-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All Pro, played in a Super Bowl, holds numerous NFL records and had more than 1,000 receptions and 15,000 yards in his career.
And yet, he has regrets.
Tiki Barber, who saw Owens at an event earlier this year, asked Owens if he was upset that he didn’t get to go out on his own terms. Owens said that he was, but not because he was a member of four different organizations in the final four years of his career; but rather, because he didn’t get to teach – or wasn’t aware enough to teach – some of the young receivers in the league just as Jerry Rice taught him.
But is teaching the next generation of players part of what it means to be great?
In a word, yes.
“You know what guys? To be honest with you, that was something that Bill Walsh preached,” Rice said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Dwight Clark, Freddie Solomon, they passed everything down to me. It’s almost like you’re passing on that torch and it’s up to you to continue to make that tree grow. So that’s something that I took a lot of pride in. I think with Terrell, he didn’t exactly get a chance to go out like he wanted to, but I didn’t get a chance to go out like I wanted to. I still wanted to play and be able to get out on that football field and bring 60,000 people to their feet, but it didn’t happen that way. But yeah, we had to be able to pass that knowledge on. It was a tradition for the 49ers, and I think everybody appreciated it.”
Rice, who helped San Francisco to three Super Bowl titles, was highly impressed with what he saw Monday, as the 49ers beat the Vikings, 20-3, in their first game at Levi’s Stadium.
“I think the Niners are really going to be able to sneak up on some people,” Rice said. “With the NFC West, the Rams got better, (you got) the Cardinals and then you know you got Seattle. It’s going to be a very tough division, and no one is expecting the Niners to do that much with a new head coach. They lost about eight players, one of their key components in Patrick Willis. So you got NaVorro Bowman. He’s back and he’s causing havoc. But I think this team, (Carlos) Hyde, the way he’s running that football, he looked real good. He looked physical. He was running downhill. He was able to change direction and do all that. Colin Kaepernick, I think he managed the game. It was a little sloppy at first, but he managed the game. This team is only going to get better.”
Barber wondered if the media made too much of the dysfunction in the 49ers’ front office last season. In fact, even if there was dysfunction in the front office, did it actually show up on the field? Did that actually influence the 49ers missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010?
“Oh, of course,” Rice said. “Of course. Eventually it’s going to get down into the locker room and then it’s going to get on the field. Management is everything. When I first came into the league, we had the best organization. We knew that everything was top class. Everything was dealt with a certain way up top, and then you had players just go out and play football. There was no distractions.”