- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

Here’s how amazing Jerry Rice was. When the record-shattering receiver broke in with San Francisco in 1985, the NFL career record for catches was 657. Rice retired Monday with 1,549, 235 more than twice as many as the previous mark.

That’s an accomplishment in the athletic stratosphere along with Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs, Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 points and Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 points.

And like those immortals, Rice couldn’t swallow being a bit player even under a friend, Denver coach Mike Shanahan, his former offensive coordinator in San Francisco. So Rice walked away at 42 rather than be a fourth or fifth receiver.

Rice’s other startling marks include 208 touchdowns and 274 consecutive games with a catch. Even last season, which he split between Oakland and Seattle, Rice still averaged 14 yards a catch, with three touchdowns among his 30 receptions.

Haslett’s stiff upper lip — New Orleans coach Jim Haslett was understandably unhappy to lose a “home” game when the NFL switched the Saints’ game at the Superdome against the New York Giants to Giants Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But Haslett is telling his players, who figure to spend the season living and working in San Antonio and playing there and in Baton Rouge, not to complain.

“If you can deal with this — and this is probably some of the highest adversity we’ll ever see — we’ll be a better team in the long run for it,” said Haslett, who was 24-17 on the road compared to 19-22 in the Superdome during five previous seasons with the Saints. “If this team has 120 yards, they can play a game.”

Like a hurricane — Marshall Faulk didn’t get to be the active leader in touchdowns and yards by being unfocused, but the St. Louis Rams running back can’t help himself if his attention wanders a bit these days. He’s a New Orleans native.

“I found myself going between the game plan and what’s going on down in New Orleans while sitting in meetings,” Faulk said. “I’ve never had a distraction like this that I’ve ever had to deal with while trying to play football.”

Calling signals for relief — Three of the five men who have quarterbacked their current teams to Super Bowls — Green Bay’s Brett Favre, Tennessee’s Steve McNair and Carolina’s Jake Delhomme — are from Louisiana and Mississippi, the states devastated by Katrina.

McNair and Favre, both of whom lost family homes to the hurricane, teamed up to send supplies to victims in Mississippi. And McNair wants your help. For every donation of $100 or more to his foundation, you will receive a an autographed 8-by-10 photo. The address: The Steve McNair Foundation, 209 10th Ave. South, Suite 342-B, Nashville, Tenn. 37203.

Eerie coincidence — Tony Wragge was on hand for both recent deaths in pro football. Wragge was playing for the Los Angeles Invaders of the Arena Football League when teammate Al Lucas sustained a spinal cord injury and died last spring. And last month, Wragge was just a few feet away when fellow lineman Thomas Herrion collapsed in the San Francisco 49ers’ locker room and died after a game from heart disease.

“I think Al and Thomas, honestly, were doing what they love to do when they passed,” Wragge said before being cut by the 49ers on Tuesday. “If I were going to go out, I would want to be doing something I love to do.”

Hardly clairvoyant — Maurice Clarett was so sure he would make the Broncos as a fifth-round draft choice that the running back rejected a signing bonus, preferring performance incentives that could have earned him about $5million if he had played as well as he did during his lone season at Ohio State. So when Clarett was cut, he wound up with no money.

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