2 legends look out for No. 1

Week Three

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September 26, 2004|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN STAFF

There is no questioning their credentials. Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver ever to play in the NFL. Bill Parcells ranks high among the league's coaching giants. They're first-vote Hall of Famers, certifiable icons, magnificent competitors.

Sadly, Rice and Parcells also share another, less attractive but equally revealing, trait.

They're both me-first guys.

That's no revelation, mind you, just common knowledge. But recent events have reinforced the image of these two hugely talented, hugely egotistical personalities.

Rice embarrassed himself on Sunday when he threw a sideline tantrum as the Oakland Raiders ran out the clock against the Buffalo Bills. The reason? His remarkable streak of 274 consecutive games with at least one catch was over.

Never mind that the Raiders were notching their first win of the year, that they are coming off a 4-12 season or that they've already had their share of upheaval under new coach Norv Turner.

Rice fumed on the bench when it became obvious his streak would end. He slammed his helmet to the ground and kicked a yard marker into a policeman.

Recognizing his impudence, Rice was apologetic after the game. But still, for the second straight Monday, Turner had to meet privately with his sullen star to smooth over hurt feelings and reiterate Rice's role on the team. That is, as a complementary part, no longer the main man. Rice obviously struggles with the role.

Parcells, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, committed no such faux pas last week. But his conduct leading up to Super Bowl XXXI, when he coached the New England Patriots against the Green Bay Packers, once more has been deemed inappropriate.

In a newly released book, Patriots Reign, by former Boston Globe reporter Michael Holley, Patriots coach Bill Belichick -- then a lieutenant under Parcells -- acknowledged that Parcells made "dozens of calls" to other teams while the Patriots were in New Orleans preparing for the game.

The Patriots lost and Parcells left in a huff for the New York Jets the next season.

"I'd say it was a little bit of a distraction all the way around," Belichick says in the book. "I can tell you firsthand that there was a lot of stuff going on before the game. I mean [Parcells] was talking to other teams. He was trying to make up his mind what he was going to do. Which, honestly, I felt was totally inappropriate. How many chances do you get to play for the Super Bowl? ... I'm not saying it was disrespectful to me, but it was in terms of the overall commitment to the team."

Moral of the story? When Parcells tells his Cowboys to put the team first, there will be more than a little hypocrisy to his words.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Upon further review, replay still has glitches

After Terrell Owens' suspect touchdown catch in Philadelphia on Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings are the latest victims of an instant replay system that is far from fail-safe.

Owens' juggling catch as he slid out of bounds inside the front, right pylon gave the Eagles a 24-9 lead with 7:40 to play. Even though Owens clearly didn't have control of the ball, Vikings coach Mike Tice did not challenge the call -- because no one in the team's coaching booth saw a replay in time and no one on the field protested the play.

ABC-TV showed only one replay before the extra point, and according to Tice, the monitor in the Vikings' booth went blank during the replay. After a television break, the coaches saw several telling replays, but by then it was too late to challenge.

Carrying the torch

Today's tantalizing matchup between Green Bay's Brett Favre and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is being viewed by some as a passing of the quarterback torch. Favre, a three-time Most Valuable Player, appears to be in the twilight of a Hall of Fame career, while Manning is on top of his game.

Colts coach Tony Dungy doesn't disagree with the idea. "Five years ago, there was probably no doubt in anybody's mind who the best quarterback in the NFL was," Dungy said. "[Favre] won't say it, but he's probably ready to pass the mantel at some point. You never know how long guys are going to play."

Iron Mike snubbed

The Chicago Bears unveiled a "bas relief" sculpture recently at Soldier Field of George Halas and eight Hall of Famers who played for the Bears. Among them were Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, Bronko Nagurski and Mike Singletary. The most glaring omission was Mike Ditka, who played on the Bears' 1963 championship team and coached the 1985 Super Bowl team, and was close to Halas.

Not surprisingly, outrage followed.

"At the very least, it's petty," said ex-defensive end Dan Hampton. "At the most, it's ridiculous. Travesty isn't enough here; this is absurd."

Said former linebacker Doug Buffone: "If you told me they were putting up a statue and you asked me which guys should be up around that statue with George Halas, and it didn't include Ditka, I'd say, `Are you crazy? Are you nuts?' "

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