Jerry Rice gets naked for ESPN Body Issue, makes bold claim about returning to NFL

Jerry Rice hasn't played an NFL regular season snap in nearly 14 years, but if a team asked him to sign a contract tomorrow, the 55-year-old Hall of Famer thinks he could still play. 

Rice made the bold claim during an interview for ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue, which is set to hit newsstands on June 29.  

"I still feel like today, if I wanted to come back to football and play football, I could do it, at the age of 55," Rice wrote.

Maybe Rice should starting training with Terrell Owens, because T.O also thinks he can still play in the NFL, despite his age (44). As a matter of fact, someone might want to think about starting a sports agency that only caters to wide receivers over the age of 40 who think they can still play in the NFL. Both T.O. and Rice seem to claim every year that they can still play, even though they're almost 100 years old combined.  

By the way, not only does Rice believe that he could potentially make a return to the NFL, but the former 49ers receiver also thinks that he could put up some huge numbers. 

"I'm one of those guys that I still believe that if I wanted to, I could come back, catch over 80 balls and really be productive on the field," Rice said. "I think I'm still explosive, and I think I still can beat up on some defenses."

If 80 catches sounds like a lot, that's because it is. If Rice had played in 2017 and racked up 80 catches, that would have ranked as the 14th highest total in the NFL last year. Of course, maybe Rice's claim isn't all that crazy. Larry Fitzgerald was one of the oldest receivers in the NFL last season at age 34, but he still managed to lead the NFC with 109 receptions. 

Although Rice hasn't played since 2004, that's not the last time he was on the field with an NFL team. The 13-time Pro Bowler actually practiced with the 49ers last August

"I went out and I practiced with the [49ers] football team last year," Rice wrote in ESPN the Magazine. "The young guys could not believe that after playing a game for 20 years, and being out of the game for 15 years or something, my body knew what to do -- that I could run routes, that I could catch the ball, that I can beat them off the line of scrimmage and do all those things. I think that really impressed them. But because I never got out of shape, my body just knew what to do the second I put on those football shoes."

That practice must have given Rice some confidence because, a few months later, he joked* to new Raiders coach Jon Gruden that he might be interested in playing. ("Joked" has an asterisk next to it because who knows if Rice was actually joking). 

Whether or not he returns to the NFL, one thing is for sure: Rice is in fantastic shape. 

For the Body Issue, he stripped down to nothing. Here's a sneak peek of Rice's ESPN photoshoot courtesy of his son's Twitter account.  

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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