Sports

Super Bowl 2013: Jerry Rice answers Randy Moss again

Jerry Rice shades Randy Moss again over Moss’ comments that he’s the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game. Moss might get his ring finally this weekend with Rice’s former team the San Francisco 49ers — but he’s no longer the main man like he used to be. So this will almost be like a mercy championship for him.

NEW ORLEANS — Jerry Rice, who takes great pride in the 49ers’ undefeated Super Bowl record, sees no reason for the winning streak to end.

The Hall of Fame receiver predicted Thursday that San Francisco would up its mark to 6-0 by beating the Baltimore Ravens 24-17 on Sunday in a ruggedly physical Super Bowl XLVII.

His reason for the pick? Rice likes like Colin Kaepernick. And Michael Crabtree. And tight end Vernon Davis.

“And the best receiver to ever play the game, Randy Moss,” Rice said wryly.

Oh, yes. That.

Rice took repeated jabs, if no haymakers, at the 49ers’ current receiver during a wide-ranging session with the media Thursday. Responding to Moss’ assertion this week that he was greatest receiver of all-time, Rice had some fun with his apparent demotion.

When introduced by an ESPN spokeswoman as the arguably best receiver in NFL history, Rice cut her off. “Second best,” he corrected.

Rice’s tone stayed mostly playful, but there were also a few serious barbs. Taking issue with Moss’ occasional lapses in attitude over the years, Rice pointed back to his own famously dogged work ethic.

“I think Randy Moss was the most talented. But along with being the most talented, you have to work hard — every season, every play,” Rice said. “I was not the most talented, but I was going to outwork you.”

Rice said Moss “could have been, probably, the greatest player ever to play the game. Gifted. 6-foot-5.

Could run a 4.3. Could out-jump you. Struck fear in the opponent.

“But you have to have it here, in your heart.”

He tapped his chest to drive home that point. Minutes later, he gestured again, this time to raise his right hand and flash one of his three Super Bowl rings.

“This how I impacted the game: with Super Bowl rings,” he said, giving reporters an extended look at the one on his finger. “I’m hoping he can go out there and win his first one and be a big factor.”

This particular ring was from Super Bowl XXIV, in which the 49ers demolished the Denver Broncos 55-10. Rice said he chose to wear that one because that game, too, was played at the Superdome.

Rice predicts that history will repeat itself here in New Orleans, this time on the strength of Kaepernick’s quick legs, strong arm and cool demeanor.

“I think Kaepernick is a very poised guy. If he makes a mistake, he doesn’t get rattled,” Rice said. “To be honest with you, when Jim Harbaugh made this move, I thought, ‘He is crazy.’ Because Alex Smith was (on a roll).

“But Kaepernick brings a dimension to the game where he’s going to have opportunities.”

Rice marveled over Kaepernick’s emerging chemistry with Crabtree, noting how the quarterback responds when his favorite receiver draws single-coverage.

“They have this swagger about themselves where it’s almost a disrespect,” Rice said, “You’re going to play him one on-on-one? I’m going to get him the football and let him drop ‘6’ on you.”

Rice won two Super Bowls with Joe Montana and one with Steve Young, so, predictably, he was asked to evaluate the ceiling for the latest upstart quarterback. Rice teased his former teammates first, joking that he was the only reason Montana and Young looked any good.

Then he downplayed comparisons between this squad and the 49ers’ dynasty teams.

“There’s a tradition with the San Francisco 49ers, but I think these new guys are paving their own way,” Rice said. “They really deserve to be here. They have confidence in each other. I think that has a lot to do with the head coach Jim Harbaugh and what he’s instilled in these players.”

In all, Rice spoke for nearly an hour. Here are some other highlights:

–On if the game could come down to a David Akers kick: “I really don’t want that to happen. But you never know. I’m hoping he can somehow dig deep and become the Akers of old. Because when he broke my (franchise single-season) scoring record, he didn’t have a problem. Everything was going through the uprights.”

–On former owner Eddie DeBartolo, a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist this weekend: “I think this society is supposed to be about forgiveness. It’s time for Eddie DeBartolo to get into the Hall.”

–On players making their Super Bowl debuts: “You get caught up in the moment, but you’ve got to be able to channel that. You cannot have wasted energy.”

Follow Daniel Brown on Twitter at twitter.com/mercbrownie. ___

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