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The forgotten greatness of Simeon Rice

Whenever I discuss the greatest Tampa Bay Buccaneers in history, Simeon Rice somehow always manages to slip my mind. Somehow, he almost never comes up in those discussions - John Lynch, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Lee Roy Selmon and even Mike Alstott are always mentioned. But Simeon Rice? He's always forgotten - and that despite his stellar production as a Buccaneer. In six seasons with the Bucs he managed a whopping 69.5 sacks, added 4 interceptions, 26 passes defensed and 19 forced fumbles. Those statistics even understate his greatness. The Football Perspective did some digging on pass-rushing statistics, and they came to a rather surprising conclusion: over the past 30 years, only Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene were more productive pass rushers than Simeon Rice. Over the past 30 years, Simeon Rice was arguably the fourth-best pass rusher in the NFL.

A few notable stats: from 1998 to 2005, he was the only player to record 100 sacks. And he did that while facing fewer pass attempts than any other elite pass rusher. Yes, you read that right: Rice was the most productive pass rusher from 1998 to 2005 in the entire NFL, despite getting fewer opportunities to produce than anyone among his competition. Rice joined the Bucs in 2001, after spending the first five years of his career with the putrid Arizona Cardinals. The Bucs had a stellar defense, but faced very few pass attempts for two reasons: they never had an offense that could force opponents to abandon the run, and the defense was much weaker against the run than it was against the pass. Despite that, Rice was one of the most consistently productive players the Bucs had: he topped 11 sacks in each of his first five seasons with the Buccaneers. The team hasn't seen a player top 8 sacks since Rice left the team.

Simeon Rice really is one of the greatest players in Buccaneers history, and an argument could be made that he has the production of a Hall of Famer. Yet, he never really seemed to get that public recognition that Warren Sapp and other Buccaneers did get. When he put up an MVP-worthy game in the Super Bowl, the fans awarded safety Dexter Jackson the MVP instead. And despite his consistent production, Rice was named to just 3 Pro Bowls in his career. While the Hall of Fame may not be in Rice's future, one other honor should be: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor.

One player who needn't worry about these things is Warren Sapp: he's a shoe-in first-ballot Hall of Famer. Of those 50 most productive pass rushers listed by the Football Perspective, only two are defensive tackles: Warren Sapp, and Hall of Famer John Randle. Sapp is eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame next season, and he should be the first Buccaneer to enter the Hall since the late, great Lee Roy Selmon. And perhaps, with a little luck, Simeon Rice can join his fellow pass-rusher some day.