With NFL training camps set to open, the first key date for fans is August 3 when the Hall of Fame Game begins preseason action. The enshrinement of this year’s class is slated for August 5 at 7 p.m. in Canton, Ohio.
This year’s honorees include quarterback Kurt Warner, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, former Dolphin great defensive end Jason Taylor, kicker Morten Andersen, safety Kenny Easley, running back Terrell Davis, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. It does not include Simeon Rice.
The former Buccaneer great should be getting far more notice than he currently receives. To their credit, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are beginning to make the case.
In a highly-informative article by Scott Smith on Buccaneers.com, Rice’s achievements are compared favorably with any defensive end currently in the Hall.
“Rice deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the game’s all-time greats,” Smith writes. “Not eventually, but now.”
For example, Smith compares Rice to Michael Strahan, who played in the NFL three years longer than Rice and accumulated 19 more sacks (141.5 to 122). Other than that, Rice either exceeded or equaled the success enjoyed by the current Good Morning America co-host, who clearly deserves to be in Canton.
Rice’s sacks-per-game average is right there with other legendary Hall of Fame defensive ends Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene. He has a better average than Strahan, as well as other legends such as Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley and Taylor. Rice has 22 more career sacks than Haley.
“There’s no doubt Simeon Rice should be a Hall-of-Famer,” said Rice’s teammate, Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks. “Anyone that puts up 122 sacks and has 8 double-digit sack seasons during a 12-year career deserves to be in the conversation.”
Only Greene, Smith, the late Reggie White, and John Randle had more seasons of 10 or more sacks.
The Bucs were making the playoffs before Rice arrived, but they became a Super Bowl Champion soon after he came to Tampa Bay from Arizona in 2001. When he joined with future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Brooks, along with the other defensive stars, the final part of a championship defense was in place.
“He was the missing piece for our defense because he was the guy that could take the game over,” said Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was then the Bucs defensive line coach. “Some of the biggest games he had were against the very best players.”
Those players included offensive linemen, like Hall of Famer Willie Roaf of the New Orleans Saints.
“I can say firsthand from the matchups I had with him that Simeon was one of the toughest for me, as well as for an offense as a whole,” said Roaf.
The numbers tell their own story, but Marinelli describes what a Hall of Fame defensive end looks like.
“He helped drive us to our Super Bowl Championship,” Marinelli said. “To me, that is what the Hall of Fame is all about.”
There should be little doubt that Rice will eventually have his gold jacket as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Smith is right. It should be next year at the latest.