No room for Rice in Broncos' plans By Mike Klis Denver Post Staff Writer http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_2999904 As he assumed more than feared, Jerry Rice was informed Saturday he would no longer be the Broncos' No. 3 receiver. Either Darius Watts or Charlie Adams will become the top reserve to Broncos starting receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. That leaves Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver in virtually every significant category, competing with Todd Devoe for the No. 5 receiver spot, a role not even guaranteed to suit up on game day. The news left Rice, who is a month shy of his 43rd birthday, again contemplating the biggest decision of his life: How much longer does he want to be a football player? Rice is home with his family in the Bay Area, where for the second time in five weeks he is seriously considering retiring from what has assuredly been a first-ballot, Hall of Fame career. "The No. 3 receiver is where Jerry's focus has been in Denver, and the fact he won't be the No. 3 receiver has him thinking about what he wants to do," said Jim Steiner, Rice's agent. Steiner added Rice will make his decision by the time the Broncos return to practice Monday in preparation for their season-opening game Sept. 11 at Miami. Rice strongly hinted following the Broncos' final preseason game Friday he had likely played the last game of his 20-year career. "I don't know what's going to happen, but if it doesn't work out, I'm OK with it," Rice said as he walked off the Sun Devil Stadium field in Phoenix, where the Broncos completed a perfect preseason by defeating the Arizona Cardinals, 30-21. "I came here and gave it my best shot, and if it doesn't work out, I'm sure these guys are going to do well." Although Rice was moved from No. 4 to No. 3 receiver following the first preseason game, the promotion may have been more about attrition than merit, as Watts continued dropping balls. However, in the next two preseason games, Rice barely played, bothered by plantar fasciitis one week and missing most of the other while attending to a family matter. That left the final preseason game Friday against Arizona for Rice to hold off Watts, Adams and Devoe. Instead, his three competitors all had better games. Watts made two impressive hand catches in hauling in two touchdown passes from Bradlee Van Pelt. Adams had two catches for 22 yards, plus three punt returns, for a 15.3-yard average. Devoe had a game-high seven catches, including a touchdown. Rice was tightly guarded in bump coverage by Cardinals cornerback David Macklin and had just two catches for 10 yards. As he was walking off the field late Friday night, Rice sounded like a man who had just got beaten out by better men. "Watts made some plays, Todd made some plays, Charlie made some plays," Rice said. "Those guys deserve to be on the field, they worked real hard. The thing is, I'm going to hold my head high if it doesn't work out." Although Rice was demoted in the depth chart Saturday, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan didn't make the unusual decision of keeping six receivers on his roster for sentimental reasons. His Super Bowl aspirations enhanced by the Broncos' 4-0 preseason, Shanahan wants every edge possible. He believes Rice's legendary work habits and leadership can help his team without catching a pass. The question is, does Rice want to hang around primarily for moral support? It was one thing for a receiver who has 1,549 catches, 22,895 receiving yards and 208 touchdowns - all NFL records - to settle for the No. 3 receiver role. Compromising his standards for the No. 5 receiver spot may be too much to ask.