(Photos courtesy of the Tampa Bay Bucs)
Talk of Fame Network
Three years ago Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp made headlines when he declared that former teammate, Simeon Rice, was more deserving of Canton than the Giants’ Michael Strahan.
The Hall’s board of selectors disagreed.
It not only elected Strahan to the Class of 2014 but hasn’t made Rice, who compiled 122 career sacks and forced 28 fumbles, a semifinalist in any year since he retired in 2008. Worse, the Hall didn’t include him in its list of 126 candidates for the Class of 2014.
That’s hard to fathom, especially if you’re Simeon Rice, who told the Talk of Fame Network he doesn’t understand what voters are missing.
“I know I was a Hall-of-Fame player,” he said on the latest TOFN broadcast. “If I could do it all over again and have a career like (I had), I would. I ushered in a whole ‘nother level of defense, with the Jason Taylors and Jevon Kearses and Dwight Freeneys … all those hybrid, fast-speed guys. I was the first one. And then that was the mold. And they looked for those guys after that.”
Rice retired in 2008 with 122 career sacks, producing double-digit numbers in eight of his 12 pro seasons, and today ranks 17th among the NFL’s all-time sack leaders – with more than Charles Haley (100.5), Andre Tippett (100), Warren Sapp (96.5) and Howie Long (84), all Hall of Famers.
He was a four-time All Pro. He was a Super Bowl champion. He was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. And he was so good that former teammate Derrick Brooks called him “one of the best … if not the best … pass rushers of my generation” in Brooks’ 2014 Hall-of-Fame speech.
So what, Rice wonders, are voters missing?
“I was literally gassed. I was blown away,” he said of his failure to make the cut to 25. “Because I was a (Defensive) Rookie of the League, (I had) 16-and-a-half sacks in Arizona (and) every D-line I was on was number one from high school to college. I was an outside linebacker in college, but every defense I ever played on I took to number-one defense in the NFL. Even Arizona was one of the top defenses for me as well. I was able to help usher a team to the playoffs that didn’t have a playoff bid in 15 years and beat Dallas. I really felt my reputation preceded me.”
Not with the Hall it hasn’t. Nevertheless, Rice joined Sapp in promoting himself for Canton, saying that there’s no Hall of Fame without him. Except there is, though Rice and Sapp can’t understand what keeps him out.
“I’ll never forget when I was playing,” Rice said, “when the (Hall’s) committee came down to visit Warren when we were playing with Tampa, and he said … I think he told someone on the committee that went down … and he said, ‘Wow, you got me with Simeon?’ And he said they laughed and said, ‘For what?’ And he was like: His numbers. They couldn’t believe my numbers.
“It’s been like through my whole career. For whatever reason, I don’t know. I have no idea. But it’s something I dealt with and lived with.”
Rice was one of several defensive stars on a Tampa Bay team that won Super Bowl XXXVII and has Sapp, Brooks and former coach Tony Dungy in Canton. Then there’s former safety John Lynch, who moved closer to the Hall last month when voters made him one of the last 10 candidates for consideration.
But Rice? No such luck. Not yet, anyway.
“When I look back,” said Rice, “and I talk to (former Tampa assistant and now Dallas defensive coordinator) Rob Marinelli and he tells me, ‘You’re the best the league has ever seen … (with) your impact’ … and he thanks me for helping him get the job with the Detroit Lions as the head coach … and he says I will be alive In every defensive-line room that he’ll ever have. And I get guys when I walk around who say, ‘We watch tape and we learn from you,’ I understand my impact and what it was in the NFL.”