San Francisco 49ers

Antonio Brown wants to play for 49ers ‘really bad,’ Hall of Famer Jerry Rice says

Jerry Rice is just warming up

Jerry Rice was an active participant at 49ers practice, even at age 54
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Jerry Rice was an active participant at 49ers practice, even at age 54

Jerry Rice didn’t mince his words when asked if Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown wants to play for the 49ers.

“Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. He wants to come here really bad,” Rice said during an interview Monday on 95.7 The Game, after Brown over the weekend posted pictures on his Instagram story of a Facetime conversation he had with Rice.

Rice, the Pro Football Hall of Famer, said the four-time All-Pro indicated San Francisco would be his preferred destination while the relationship with his current team has soured.

“He’s talking about running the hill with me, doing all that, and just working out, just picking my brain,” Rice said during the interview. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen because it’s going to be up to Kyle Shanahan and also John Lynch. But I’m all for it if they want him to come on board. And I would be looking forward to just passing some of that knowledge on to him and being around this guy because I know he’s a great individual.”

The Steelers have admitted it might be hard to bring back Brown following events late in the regular season, as the team missed the playoffs. He didn’t play in their must-win contest against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 after having an apparent falling out during the week of practice and leaving the team.

Steelers team president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette last week it would be “hard to envision” Brown being with the team in camp while indicating he could be made available in a trade.

“We’ll look at all the options. We’re not going to release him; that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table,” Rooney said.

By trading Brown, the Steelers would be willing to absorb more than $21 million in dead money on their salary cap while Brown is entering the third year of a five-year, $72.7 million contract. Pittsburgh could decide that cap hit is worth shipping Brown in hopes of improving its locker-room dynamic. But it’s also a great deal of cash to pay for someone to play on another roster.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where Brown would prefer to play. He’s under contract, meaning the Steelers control his future - and it’s unknown if the 49ers would be willing to offer a trade package, though they could use a sizable upgrade at receiver.

Brown, 30, will be affordable over the next three seasons, with salary cap figures of $15.13 million, $11.3 million and $12.5 million through 2021. San Francisco is entering the offseason expected to have roughly $70 million in cap space.

And even with the questions about Brown’s fit in the 49ers’ locker room, while Lynch and Shanahan have prioritized culture, Rice has confidence Brown’s attitude wouldn’t be a problem.

“Not a question. No hesitation at all,” Rice said on 95.7 The Game. “Just being around him and I know his demeanor. I know he wants to win and he just wants to contribute to the team. And I think he would be a great asset to the San Francisco 49ers if they are willing to make it happen.”