Donald Trump made an unexpected decision on Tuesday to pardon former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was one of the first to praise the President.
DeBartolo was the owner of the 49ers during the most successful run the franchise had. The team won five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s under his leadership, but DeBartolo stepped down in 1997 after it was reported that he would be indicted for gambling fraud. DeBartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony after he paid former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards $400,000 in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.
Rice was in attendance for the White House announcement on Tuesday along with NFL legends Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley. The former wide receiver threw his support behind DeBartolo and commended Trump for pardoning the 73-year-old.
#NEW Jerry Rice,Jim Brown,Todd Haley, Ronnie Lott and other Ex @NFL Players at the White House today.
Trump has pardoned Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the Former Owner of the 49ers
DeBartolo avoided prison time but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the NFL. He stepped down anyway and handed over control of the 49ers to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York. DeBartolo’s nephew Jed York owns the team now, so it has remained in the same family.
The scandal did not stop DeBartolo from being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. There were also rumors a couple of years back that he could buy another NFL franchise, though that never came to fruition.
Jerry Rice is ready to keep running routes in a full suit, especially at the Super Bowl.
Rice went viral before the NFC Championship after he was seen running routes in a suit during warmups, looking as crisp and athletic as ever. The San Francisco 49ers icon is planning a repeat performance in Miami ahead of Super Bowl LIV, too.
I just talked to Jerry Rice, who’ll be in Miami. “I don’t know if they’ll let me on the field, though, but I’m going to try.”
Rice will run at least one pass pattern during 49ers warmups in a full suit.
“It’ll be a go pattern,” Rice said. “I like to go deep."
Rice would probably love to play in the game, but he’ll have to settle for watching. There are certainly worse people for the 49ers’ receivers to emulate than the NFL’s all-time leader in receiving yards, and maybe he’ll bring them some more good luck.
It’s safe to say that Jerry Rice is invested in Sunday’s NFC title game.
David Lombardi of The Athletic reported that the San Francisco 49ers great was running routes in a full suit with receivers Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne during warmups for the showdown against the Green Bay Packers.
Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports shared video of Rice’s escapades:
Rice, the NFL’s all-time leading receiver and a three-time Super Bowl champ with the Niners, is now 57 years old, but those routes still look pretty darn crisp. He has been hyping up his legacy a lot in recent months, and it seems like he can still back up all of that talk as well.
Jerry Rice is widely considered to be the greatest receiver in NFL history, and he played in an era where a quarterback throwing for 4,000 yards or a player racking up 1,000 yards receiving was a much more noteworthy accomplishment than it is now. The rules were enforced much differently in the 1990s than they are today, and Rice is confident his Hall of Fame career would have been even more remarkable if his prime were right now.
In an appearance on Ian Rapoport’s “RapSheet and Friends” podcast this week, Rice talked about the emphasis the NFL places on protecting receivers now. He said he was getting hit far more often during his 20-year career than today’s pass-catchers are.
“Back when I played, if I was on the left side and if the ball was not even coming my way, I was still getting hit, and you just can’t do that today,” Rice said, as transcribed by David Bonilla of 49ers Webzone. “It was more physical downfield against bump-and-run. You can’t push the receiver or put your hands on the receiver after five yards.”
If illegal contact and pass interference were officiated a decade or two ago the way they are now, Rice says he would have had even more “amazing” numbers.
“So the numbers could have been amazing, to be honest with you, because I played in an era where I was still able to put up outstanding numbers, and I think the game was a little bit more — maybe I shouldn’t say a little bit more physical because it’s still physical, but I think back when I played, they could put their hands on you just a little bit more,” he said.
He’s right. Rice is still the NFL’s all-time leading receiver by a mile. The only active player who is remotely close to him is Larry Fitzgerald, and he would need more than 6,000 yards to catch Rice. That is not going to happen. Rice’s 1,848-yard season in 1995 ranks third all-time, which is even more impressive when you consider the way the game has changed.
These are the reasons it is impossible to compare players from different eras, and we all know about the similar debates people love to have with the NBA. What makes Rice’s career so special is that he will probably always be known as the greatest receiver of all time, so you can just imagine how he would have terrorized opposing defenses if cornerbacks were hardly allowed to touch him.
We have a long way to go before this becomes reality, but there are actually some reasons to believe it could happen. There is reason to believe the Steelers could actually part ways with Brown, and the 49ers have enough cap space to be able to make a legitimate run at him. Of course, the two sides would have to match up on a trade, but it’s worth watching.