Colorful Rice still waiting for recognition
Simeon Rice keeps sacking QBs and he wants to know why more people don't notice, writes Len Pasquarelli.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- He is funny, engaging, articulate in his own Planet Simeon kind of way, an entrepreneur who developed his own sports apparel line, is fine-tuning a screenplay that has been several years in the making and, oh yeah, is one of the NFL's premier sack threats.
So why, Tampa Bay Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice wondered aloud Sunday, does he merit so little national attention?
"People talk about raising the bar at a position," said Rice, shaking his head. "When it comes to defensive ends, maybe defensive players, period, I am the bar. Nothing against any of those other guys, like Michael Strahan or Dwight Freeney, but there's no comparison. But when people talk about the premier defensive players in the league, blasÚ this and blasÚ that, I don't even get mentioned. I'm not asking for respect, but when people start talking about difference makers, please, my name deserves to at least be a part of the discussion."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Plus, as Rice accurately noted, he is one of the NFL's most colorful personalities, which should qualify him as a media darling. Instead, he mostly is viewed as an enigma.
Although it has been six years since Rice left the Arizona Cardinals and signed in Tampa Bay as a free agent, he still is burdened by the knock his former employers put on him, the one about how he wouldn't play the run and simply wanted to rush the quarterback. And his reputation was dented three years ago when he was dismissed from the Pro Bowl squad for not going to practice.
Those things have made him a bit of a pariah.
Too bad, too, because the folks who don't take the time to sit down with Rice, outfitted Sunday in camo pants and a tank top, and about as physically cut as a player could be, are missing a good show. There are two things you can take to the bank with Rice: He's going to get double-digit sacks every year, and he's going to fill up your tape recorder with entertaining, but also insightful, material.
This latest visit with Rice, though, was a little different, in that he seemed legitimately wounded that, after 10 seasons in the league, he is still not a household name. How upset is Rice about the slight?
"I almost left camp, walked out, ended it," Rice claimed. "I mean, when I reported here, I wasn't sure that I had it in my fiber to go through this again. I really had to search deep into my soul to ask myself if this is what I want to keep doing."
He won't, Rice said, do it forever.
"I'm not into it for Pro Bowl [recognition]," Rice said. "Heck, I went to the Pro Bowl and they sent me home, you know? The numbers, they don't mean much to me, and they don't define me. I'm not going to hang around just to set records. But if I do stick around, I will set records because I'm consistent and you haven't seen any dropoff yet, right? It's like the sun coming up every day. Put me down for 12 sacks or so, and you know it's going to happen. I sack the quarterback, I strip the ball, I make big plays. I do it under duress because people are scheming to keep me out of the backfield. What more can I do?"
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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