Rice's Recipe: Part Glitz, All Blitz
After lacing up his red Pumas, tossing on a Fila ski vest and donning a pair of Gucci shades, Simeon Rice wiped his brow and let down his guard. After Rice and linebacker Derrick Brooks led the Bucs to a 27-0 victory against a previously potent Atlanta Falcons team, it was time for Rice to do a little self-reflection in the manner only he can. `I'm real talk,'' Rice said. ``Every time you talk to me, you're going to hear the truth - from my perspective.''
Coming from a 6-foot-5, 268-pound millionaire decked out in designer everything, you tend to take that with a certain amount of skepticism. But for all the hip-hop glitter and glitz, there's something refreshingly sincere about Rice. You could see it in the way he played Sunday, wreaking havoc on the Falcons' offensive line and producing two sacks of elusive quarterback Michael Vick. The first of those represented the 100th of Rice's career, which is still going strong in its ninth year.
You could also hear it in Rice's voice, when he described Sunday's result as a ``turning point'' of the season while simultaneously admitting it might be arriving too late. ``It's been a frustrating season, of course, because we're a really good team and I think we showed that today,'' said the 30-year-old Rice. ``It's unfortunate we haven't shown enough of that. We felt last time we should've beat this team. We felt like [Atlanta] could compete with us, but we felt like we could out-compete this team.''
So facing virtual playoff elimination Sunday - against an Atlanta team on the verge of clinching the NFC South title - Rice gathered his teammates on the defensive line before kickoff and posed the kind of questions a sports psychologist might to athletes struggling to find their way. ``I asked all the D-linemen `Who are we?,' '' Rice said. ``I asked them to go out there and be who we are, maximize yourself and show yourself as who you see yourself to be.''
An unorthodox approach, yes, but Rice is anything but ordinary. With Rice and Brooks looking eerily like the same players they were on that not- so-distant Super Bowl squad, and with contributions from others such as linemen Dewayne White and Greg Spires, the defense stifled Vick and the Falcons all day.
White recorded a third- quarter takedown of Vick for a loss - his sixth consecutive game with at least a half-sack. The season-ending injury to fellow lineman Ellis Wyms has thrust White into the rotation in just his second year in the league. White said he saw signs early in the game that signaled it was going to be the Bucs' day. ``The first three-and-out [by Atlanta] and once Simeon started getting sacks and I started getting pressure on Vick, you could see they weren't in a groove anymore,'' White said. ``And once we knocked Vick out of the game for a play or two, well, we knew he is pretty much 80 percent of their offense and when he goes down, the team goes down.''
Rice says he won't celebrate his 100th sack until after the season is over, whenever that comes. ``For me, to do what I've done at this point, you applaud it from a fan perspective,'' Rice said. ``But from an introspective, I got a lot to go. We got four games to go. I got to go play my boy [former Bucs offensive tackle] Roman [Oben]. That's my guy, you know what I mean? We've got to go take care of things.''
Bill Ward The Tampa Tribune 6 December 2004