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Frustration grows in Rice

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jerry Rice is tired of being fourth,
fifth or even sixth fiddle behind the Oakland Raiders' talented young receivers -- and he wants out.

Rice asked the Raiders to trade him if he's no longer going to
have a significant role, and he met with owner Al Davis on
Wednesday night to discuss his options.

"If there's something that can be done, it will be done,"
said coach Norv Turner, who has spoken to Rice several times recently. "Everything's too vague right now for me
to get into any specifics. He's expressed his wishes, and we'll just
see what happens."

The last time Davis met with a receiver was during training
camp, and Tim Brown was released the next day after refusing to
accept a greatly diminished role with the Raiders.

Rice is making $1.35 million in base salary this season. He
spent Wednesday -- his 42nd birthday -- defending his ability to
catch passes yet again. That's the umpteenth time already this
season.

His complaining is becoming a weekly occurrence.

"I'm not trying to force anything, but, you know, it doesn't
make any sense for me to stay here if things continue going this
way," Rice said, reiterating he'd like to be traded.

"I didn't envision what's going down right now. I pretty much
was under the impression I was going to be a big factor this year,
be a part of the offense and have opportunities to make plays."

Rice, who claims he was never informed he'd have such a
diminished role, told a Sacramento radio station Tuesday that he
expected to be traded before the Oct. 19 deadline and would embrace
the chance to play elsewhere because he "can't go out this way."

There also have been rumors about a possible trade with the
Detroit Lions that would reunite Rice with Steve Mariucci, his
former coach at San Francisco.

Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi denied there
was ever a trade in the works. Rice's agent, Jim Steiner, was out
of the country and unavailable.

Mariucci said Wednesday that he had read about Rice's situation but
that the Lions were committed to developing their young receiving
corps.

"That's where we're headed," he said. "We're headed forward
with these guys. The trade deadline is next week. Not a lot of
trades go on in football. There are some rumors about several
receivers and other players too, but we haven't given it a lot of
serious consideration only because we're committed to our guys
right now and headed in a certain direction where guys are going to
be here for several years."

Rice, the NFL's career leader in catches and touchdowns and the
only receiver to ever play after age 40, has just five receptions
for 67 yards and no touchdowns. His record streak of 274
consecutive games with a catch ended in a 13-10 win over Buffalo in
Week 2. He threw a sideline tantrum after that game.

He compared his current situation to the one he faced with the
49ers four years ago when they let him go and decided to give their
young receivers more opportunities.

"It's not up to me to fix it. If I did that, then I would be
running the team," Rice said, laughing. "You know what, I look at
the situation and it's always a business. That's the way I've
approached it. Sometimes you're just dealt a bad hand. If I have to
leave, I have to go. That's the bottom line. If I go to another
team, then I'm going to do everything possible to help that team to
win."

His teammates sympathize.

"Everybody wants to be involved in the game," receiver Ronald
Curry said. "Jerry should be involved in the game. I think he
deserves the right, but we're not really running the offense or
calling the plays where we're singling one guy out. It's more what
the defense is giving us, and Jerry hasn't really had those
opportunities."

Turner has stressed that Rice is still an important member of
the Raiders, but this offense isn't going to have one go-to
receiver.

"Jerry's been unbelievable," Turner said. "He's a pro, and
I've got the most amount of respect for him."

Rice is having a hard time accepting the fact his career is
winding down. He said in January this would be his last season, but
has since insisted he'll be back next year.

He worked just as hard as always leading into his 20th NFL
season, the fourth with Oakland.

"I know it's frustrating for Jerry, and his particular
situation is a hard one. I know he's not playing as much as he'd
like to," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "But we've all got
things we're frustrated about right now, and we've all got to keep
the team in mind. I know Jerry will do that. He's the ultimate pro.
I don't think we're going to trade him and I don't think he's going
anywhere but stay right here. I believe he can contribute."

Meanwhile, injured quarterback Rich Gannon was seeing another
doctor in Los Angeles on Wednesday to determine whether he can play
again this season after breaking a vertebra in his neck. It's
likely 38-year-old Gannon will be placed on injured reserve
soon, ending his season.