With injuries mounting in the preseason, perhaps the NFL should take a page from Bill Walsh. The former San Francisco head coach limited contact during practice, which may have helped him win three Super Bowl titles with the 49ers in the 1980s.
“Well, during training camp, we had some hitting, but during the regular season, Bill Walsh felt like he needed to police that,” NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He didn’t want players to get hurt. So it was up to the players to really police themselves. I think with all the injuries that’s happening today, to be honest with you, I just think it’s part of the game. When you look at what happened to Jordy Nelson and what happened to him, he just made a routine catch and made a turn and tried to make a move and he tore his ACL. He could have did that by walking down the stairs or tripping over the carpet or anything. I always looked forward to preseason. I wanted to play in those games because I think that got me ready for the regular season where I could go out and perform at my best.”
Rice, who played in the NFL for two decades, doesn’t recall there being as many non-contact injuries as there are today.
“Yeah, you know what? I really don’t remember injuries like that,” he said, “but it happens. I think for me, I always wanted to go into training camp in tip-top shape. A lot of guys, they try to use training camp as a means to getting into shape – and (I’m) not saying that (was the case for) Jordy Nelson or these other guys that have gotten hurt – but I had a different approach. When I got into training camp, I was ready to go and I was already 100 percent. I think that’s the reason why I was able to play for over 20 years and be productive.”
Rice, 52, was known for his legendary workouts, which helped him become the NFL’s all-time receiving leader in, well, pretty much everything.
“I was just hungry,” Rice said. “I was hungry. It was always that fear of failure that kept pushing me. I never got to a point where I felt complacent. I would hear people say, ‘You’re probably the greatest ever,’ but I would not relax and let my guard down. I always wanted to give 100 percent and I wanted to give the fans something special on that given Sunday or that Monday. I wanted them to walk away from the stadium and say, ‘Wow, unbelievable. Did you see what he was able to accomplish . . . on the football field today?’ That was something that always pushed me and motivated me.”
Rice was asked if he’s the greatest receiver of all time.
“I’ll never say that,” Rice said, laughing. “I’ve never said that. You’re not going to get those words out of my mouth. There have been so many great players that have impacted the NFL. I’m just happy I got the opportunity to play a game that I really love doing.”