Jerry Rice a target of Patriots fans

Is Jerry Rice more G.H.O.A.T. than G.O.A.T. these days?

It’s not even a question, as far as New England Patriots fans are concerned. Rice, you’ll recall, was outspoken in his criticism of the Patriots in general, quarterback Tom Brady in particular, in the wake of Deflategate. The San Francisco 49ers’ Hall of Fame receiver, who also spent time with the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, said before Super Bowl XLIX that if the Patriots won, they should have an asterisk next to their name for cheating.

“This is going to follow them, you know, for the rest of their lives,” Rice told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game last month, while also bringing up Spygate. “Because when you look at it, when people go back and they think about the New England Patriots, they're going to think about these controversies. So it's unfortunate.

“I've always wanted to do things the right way. I didn't want to take any short cuts or anything like that. It's just unfortunate that we're talking about them using underinflated footballs instead of talking about the Super Bowl.”

And yet…

Rice admitted before that interview in an ESPN feature on gloves worn by pass-catchers that he himself had used stickum.

“I know this might be a little illegal, guys, but just put a little spray, a little stickum on them, to make sure that texture is a little sticky,” Rice said.

So rather than the Greatest Of All Time, Patriots fans see Rice as the Greatest Hypocrite Of All Time…or somesuch.

Rice, meanwhile, has taken a lot of heat on social media for his seemingly duplicitous stance on cheating but Tweeted that all players used the banned substance in his playing days.

Fellow Hall of Fame receiver and ESPN analyst Cris Carter, meanwhile, dismissed his colleague's claims by saying he never used stickum.

Rice, though, is not the only former 49ers player to take a shot at New England and Brady. Charles Haley, who was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the night before Brady won his fourth ring, the same number as Joe Montana, recently went on the offensive.

“Joe didn't have to cheat,” Haley told the Talk of Fame Network. “I’ve lost all respect [for Brady]. When your integrity is challenged in the game of football, to me, all his Super Bowls are tainted.

“This is what Charles Haley believes – it’s going to come back to haunt him one day. If the league doesn't come down on this guy…everybody is talking about it. Nobody believes it was by accident. It is what it is.”

Patriots fans have not been thrilled with Haley’s take either, obviously.