Jerry Rice thinks Calvin Johnson is a great player. But a long way from the greatest.
Rice told USA Today that he has heard speculation that Megatron might some day surpass Rice as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver, but Rice would like to point out that Johnson isn’t close yet.
“I think it’s great that they’re still talking about me after my career’s over. [Johnson] still has a ways to go,” Rice said. “We’re just going to let this guy continue to develop, and if he should break the majority of my records or break all my records, I’ll be the first one to congratulate him. But I know the sacrifice that you have to put into it. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work.”
Having said myself that Johnson is playing better right now than Rice ever did, I’ll also say that Rice is absolutely right that Johnson still has a long way to go before his career can match Rice’s career. Rice’s longevity was amazing: He was a consistently great player from his rookie year in 1985, all the way until 2002, when he was still one of the best receivers in the NFL at age 40. (His productivity finally went into steep decline at age 41, and he had one final, forgettable season at age 42.) The 28-year-old Johnson isn’t even halfway to Rice’s career totals and probably won’t play long enough to surpass Rice as the all-time record holder in catches, yards or touchdowns.
Still, Johnson broke Rice’s single-season receiving yards record with 1,964 yards last season, and Rice knows Johnson is great.
“I think [Johnson] has gotten so much better route running, and he doesn’t just rely on his jumping ability anymore,” Rice said. “That’s why he’s called Megatron. He’s a hell of a lot [to handle] on that football field. . . . I wish him the best. I know what type of work ethic he has. He’s a complete player.”
But still a long way from Rice, who’s regarded by many as the best player ever to play the game.