By Janie McCauley | Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS -- Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has no interest in a back-and-forth debate with Randy Moss during Super Bowl week about who's the greatest NFL wide receiver of all time.
"This is not about Randy and Jerry," Rice said Thursday. "It's OK. I don't need to talk about being the best receiver. I don't need to do that. I don't need to pat myself on the back."
Rice has a strong opinion on the matter, yet insists he won't come out and say he is the best ever. The former San Francisco 49ers star turned television man will offer one thought to Moss: Check the stats.
"I know he says you can't bring the stats into the scenario, but I think that's part of being the best receiver to play the game," Rice said Thursday. "I'm just having fun with it right now. I think the thing is, I never took any plays off and I always gave 100 percent. Also, you put my numbers up against Randy's and my body of work compared to his, and there's a big difference."
During media day Tuesday at the Superdome, Moss declared himself "the greatest receiver ever to play this game." The 35-year-old Moss, who returned to the league this season after a year off, Moss made 28 catches for 434 yards and three touchdowns this season. In 2007, he broke Rice's single-season record for touchdown catches with 23. Rice had 22 in 1987.
Rice had 14 1,000-yard seasons. Moss is second with 10.
Rice, who played the first 16 of his 21 NFL seasons with San Francisco from 1985-2000, holds virtually every significant receiving mark. That includes most career receptions (1,549); yards receiving (22,895); total touchdowns (208); and combined net yards (23,546) in his career with San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle.
Rice gives Moss the nod for pure talent and athletic ability, but that's not all it takes.
"The thing about me guys -- and I still say this today -- I think Randy Moss was the most talented," Rice said. "But along with being the most talented, you have to work hard -- every season, every play. I was not the most talented, but I was going to outwork you. He probably could have been the greatest player ever to play the game. He's 6-5, could run a 4.3. Could outjump you. Struck fear in the heart of the defense. But you have to have it here, in your heart."
Rice later pointed out that he wasn't questioning Moss' heart, just emphasizing his own and the passion for the game.
"This is how I impacted the game," Rice said, holding up the sparkly 1988-89 championship ring on his middle right finger, "with Super Bowl rings. I'm hoping he can go out there and win his first one and be a big factor."
Before Rice spoke, during a media session for several in the lineup of ESPN commentators, he was announced as "arguably the best wide receiver ..." The woman couldn't finish before Rice interrupted.
"The second best," he quipped, laughing.
Let the debate continue.