Jerry Rice talks 'Madden,' 49ers, Kinect

Jerry Rice is now a spokesman against obesity, and we spoke to him about other stuff, too. Brandon Wade/Getty Images

The NFL is teaming with Xbox to fight childhood obesity, with a goal of recruiting 1 million kids to be physically active 60 minutes per day.

Workout warrior Jerry Rice is helping lead the charge, serving as a spokesman for the project in hopes of getting more kids off the couch and exercising, whether that’s with a Kinect, or, if they’re up for it, maybe taking a page from the G.O.A.T. and running hills in their backyard.

“There’s a lot of obese kids out there, and this is a nationwide movement to recruit kids across the United States to pledge to be active for 60 minutes a day," Rice said. "This is all about getting them active, and you can do this as a family. I remember when I was a kid, I was always outside playing basketball or I was catching footballs, so I was always active. That’s why I want to help get the awareness out there so we can address this situation.”

The initiative is called the 60 Million Minutes Challenge, where families can pledge to play at this website or on the Xbox Live dashboard. By pledging to work out, not only are they committing to good health, but as incentive to keep the sweat pouring, they’ll also have an opportunity to win NFL Shop gift cards. In addition, when the 60 Million Minutes Challenge Facebook page launches Oct. 9, participants will even get a chance to win a personalized “social autograph” on their wall from former and current NFL stars.

“The Kinect for Xbox 360 is so important to this because your body is the controller,” Rice said. “So while you play, it gives you a workout. The Kinect is fantastic because you have to get up, you have to move around.”

If only Microsoft would build a virtual hill for cyber Jerry to run with us.

ESPN Playbook: You’re here representing Xbox and you’re a legend in “Madden NFL 13.” What’s it like to see your legacy live on in the world of video games?

Jerry Rice: I think it’s fantastic. I played the game at a very high level and I really enjoyed what I was doing out on the football field, so to hear fans come up to me and say, “Hey, I played as you today and you were unstoppable,” I’m always like, “Oh my God, really?” [Laughs] It’s really cool, and it’s a testament to my hard work and my dedication to the game. I never took anything for granted. I always wanted to go out there and entertain the fans.

The 49ers could’ve used some of that entertainment on Sunday against the Vikings.

Those Niners had a tough one yesterday. I really expected them to go in and win that football game, but Christian Ponder did a pretty good job of throwing two touchdowns and running one. He did something that a lot of running backs haven’t been able to do, and that’s get a rushing touchdown on that San Francisco 49ers defense.

This season is one of the more unpredictable that I can remember.

It really is. It’s so unpredictable who is going to win, but I’m sure this 49ers team has a lot of resilience. They are going to fight, and they are going to be ready for the next battle. You just have to get that offense going again. They have the defense, but I want to see the offense throw the ball down the field a little bit more. I want to see Randy Moss out on the football field being a little bit more involved, and I want to see more of Mario Manningham. We have the weapons, we just need to pull everything together.

I mentioned how you’re in the new “Madden” game, and most years, everyone wants to be rated a 99 overall in the game. That’s the highest rating. But back in “Madden 98” you were actually rated 189 in the game. That’s the highest rating ever. Did you know that?

You’re kidding, right? [Laughs] My son plays and loves the game, but I’m not very good at it. But wow, that’s amazing that I was ever rated that high.

Who do you see as the best wide receiver in the NFL today? Maybe they’re not 189 rating worthy, but who do you see as elite?

There are a lot of these guys I call the young generation, these young pups coming along like A.J. Green and Julio Jones, but right now, you have Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson and they’re doing big things for their teams. These guys are big-play receivers who can just completely take over a ballgame.

Do you think any of these guys will ever catch your numbers, or are your records unbreakable?

I think records are always meant to be broken, but I really sacrificed a lot to really play for such a long time. I really had an outstanding cast of teammates who helped me break so many records.

The game has changed so much, now a former teammate like Ronnie Lott wouldn’t even be able to smack people across the middle. He might not have become the legend he is today if you guys played by today’s rules.

He wouldn’t be able to hit. He wouldn’t be able to be the enforcer he was back in the day. You’re still seeing some of those hits, but the league is really trying to cut down on that and protect the players. It’s sort of hard for a defensive player to taper back just a little bit, because when you get that shot, you have been told to drive through that individual, but now you have to taper back just a little.

What would your numbers have looked like if you didn’t ever have to worry about a safety trying to take your head off across the middle?

I don’t know about that. I understand that in today’s game the players are bigger and faster and you cannot lead with your helmet. If you do that, there’s going to be a severe fine.

How do you think that this current 49ers team and this defense would’ve stacked up against some of your old teams? Could they hang with you back in the day?

Oh, we are not going to go there! We are not going there! [Laughs] I think the 49ers are on their way back. They have an excellent coach in Jim Harbaugh, and they have a great defense who will hit you in the mouth. They have a great team, and I picked them to make it to the Super Bowl against the Texans.

Back to the Play 60 initiative, what advice do you have for parents who are trying to help get their kids in better shape?

I think the best way is to lead by example. It’s up to the parents to get out there and be active. If the kids see their parents doing it, they’re going to do the same thing and follow in their footsteps. Working out is still something that I take a lot of pride in, and I still try to stay in the best shape that I can stay in. If you do that, it’s going to be very rewarding.

Do you still go out and run the hill?

Still running hills and a lot of track work. This is something I’ve done my entire life, being active, and there are a lot of kids out there that we need to set the right example for. If we do that, it’s going to be better for them in the future.