Thursday, December 02, 1999

Young Bengals recall watching Rice

DBs teen-agers when receiver was in heyday

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The return of Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver, to Cincinnati reminds not only how great his career has been, but how young his foes are in the Bengals' secondary.

        One cornerback, Artrell Hawkins, was 13 when Rice strafed the Bengals for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards Jan.22, 1989. That was the first Super Bowl Hawkins remembers watching start to finish. The other cornerback, Rodney Heath, was 14 and a freshman at Western Hills High School when his hometown team was defeated. Rookie free safety Cory Hall was 12, and he and his friends were doing “The Ickey Shuffle,” the touchdown dance craze spawned by Bengals running back Ickey Woods.

        “It's pretty amazing to look up and see him on the other side of the ball. I could be his son,” Hall said. “It's weird. But when I get in the game, he'll be No.80.”

        Rice, 37, is having nowhere near a Pro Bowl season. He's averaging just fewer than 10 yards for his 43 catches. His longest reception of the season is just 32 yards, and that didn't come until Monday night.

        “I guess he hasn't been as productive as he's been, but he doesn't have a lot of things this year, and you still have to respect what he's done,” Hawkins said. “During warmups, it will be, "Wow, Jerry Rice.' Then, after warmups, I understand he's trying to embarrass me, and I'm going to try and embarrass him back.

        “What's amazing to me is I've got a brother who's 12,” Hawkins said. “To think he would be 22 and I'd still be playing in the NFL ... To me, that just seems like an eternity.”

        MORE RICE: No Bengal knows Rice better than wide receiver James Hundon, one of Rice's offseason workout partners from 1995-98 in California. Hundon watched Rice play Monday and could see the competitive juices still flowing.

        “Nowhere near how he normally plays, and he knows that, and that's why he's frustrated,” Hundon said. “I know how hard he'll be working in practice this week. He'll tell you he's never had a perfect game.”

        Hundon never saw Rice get tired during the grueling morning workouts five days a week. From 7-10a.m., there would be running. Hill work. Speed work. Rice is heavy into endurance work. Then from 10a.m. to noon, there would be lifting. Monday, Wednesday, Friday would be the upper body. Tuesday, Thursday the lower. On Sat urdays, Rice would play basketball and lift on his own.

        “A lot of times he worked out twice a day, and then I started to do that,” Hundon said. “He never got tired. He'd come back (from running a pass route), squat down, look like he was tired, but then go run a route like it was his first. I've seen what Jerry goes through, and he's earned every catch, every touchdown and every dollar he's asked for.”

        ALEXANDER OUT: Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander is no longer a candidate for the head coaching job at Eastern Michigan: “I'm flattered that they were pursuing me, but we've agreed our visions are different.”

        HOME WEEK: Bengals coach Bruce Coslet is preparing for a 49ers team that gave him his coaching start in 1980 under Bill Walsh, the former Bengals assistant who is now the head of San Francisco's football operations

        “We don't have enough time in my lifetime,” Coslet said when asked what he learned from Walsh. “What can I say? I owe him a lot. He gave me a start as a player and as a coach.”

        But Coslet isn't trying to beat Walsh Sunday: “We're past that, for the reason he's not coaching anymore. He's not going to call any plays or game plan this week. He's just not in the business anymore. But you always like to look good in front of your mentors.”

        INJURY UPDATE: OLB Reinard Wilson (hamstring) and ILB Takeo Spikes (ankle) are probable, with Spikes expected to return to practice Friday. G Brian DeMarco is questionable, but the Bengals hope he can practice today. FB Clif Groce is probable with a stomach pull.


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