Jerry Rice used to break 49ers records. Now, he breaks 49ers news, or creates it.
On Monday, Rice said Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown wants to play for the 49ers “really badly” in 2019. Rice knows because Brown reportedly expressed his desire to Rice on the phone Sunday night.
“This guy, man, he’s a totally complete team player,” Rice said of Brown during an interview on 95.7 The Game. “I don’t know what happened in Pittsburgh, but I know that this guy, if he comes here to San Francisco, he’s going to do everything possible to help this team win.”
Brown, 30, is a controversial player. The Steelers suspended him for their final game of the regular season after he stormed out of a midweek practice and didn’t turn up for three days. The Steelers seem open to trading him despite all he has produced.
“If it was up to me, he’d be here in a heartbeat,” Rice said. “It sends a message to the fans, that, ‘Hey, look, we’re not looking down the road to win. We’re looking to win right now.’ And he’s that type of player — big playmaker that can make those big plays and really put a lot of fans in the stands.”
Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, has gained 9,145 receiving yards the past six seasons. Rice, the greatest receiver of all time, never gained more than 8,759 receiving yards during any six-season stretch of his career. Browns’ stats are extremely impressive.
But, he deserted the Steelers for three days just before their season finale.
During a walkthrough practice on Wednesday, Dec. 26, Brown allegedly ran the wrong route, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “Get him out of there. Get somebody else in there.”
Brown heard, then threw a football at Roethlisberger’s feet, left practice and went AWOL until Sunday morning. He missed every practice and meeting with the Steelers the rest of the week and did not return their phone calls or texts.
In addition to feeling slighted by Roethlisberger, Brown was upset his teammates didn’t vote him team MVP, according to the NFL Network. Fellow wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster won the award instead.
Sunday morning, game day, Brown finally had a change of heart. He wanted to play after all. So, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to tell him Brown wanted to play in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Tomlin refused to let Brown play. Tomlin told Brown to come to the game, stand on the sideline in street clothes and support his teammates. Brown agreed, but wore a mink coat and left the stadium at halftime when the Steelers were trailing 10-3. They came back in the second half and won 16-13.
Two days later on January 1, Ryan Clark, Brown’s former teammate with the Steelers and a current ESPN analyst, said the Steelers should trade Brown. “It’s time to go,” Clark said.
“When it comes to being a good teammate, when it comes to being supportive, understanding that you’re trying to achieve one goal, that doesn’t matter to him,” Clark added.
“This is a guy that goes on Facebook Live (and broadcasts) as your coach is talking and leaks information out of the locker room that shouldn’t be there. This is a guy that publicly talks about not getting the ball or issues with the offensive coordinator, knocks over garbage cans because he doesn’t get the rock. When you’re an organization built on integrity, you have to show the rest of the locker room that. You have to take that stand.”