Could Spence be as special as Simeon Rice?

by Gary Shelton on August 20, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Could Spence be the next Simeon?/CARMEN MANDATO

Could Spence be the next Simeon?/CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Tampa Bay fans don't want much from second-year defensive end Noah Spence.

They just want him to be Simeon Rice.

That's all.

Like Rice, Spence is a lean, fast defensive end. Unlike Rice, he has yet to build his resume. But already, he has flashed enough potential – and gotten enough rave reviews from his teammates – that fans can envision him tearing around the corner in a blur, reaching out with his long arms and hauling down quarterbacks. You know, the way Rice used to.

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Spence could be a special player at defensive end./CARMEN MANDATO

Spence could be a special player at defensive end./CARMEN MANDATO

In 13 seasons – six with the Bucs – Rice had 122 sacks. Sixty-nine and a half of those came while he was in Tampa Bay. There are still those who argue that Rice should have been the MVP of the Bucs' Super Bowl victory over the Raiders.

Saturday, Rice returned to the practice fields. And he says he likes what he sees in Spence.

“He reminds me very much of myself,” Rice said. “He has the talent. He has the capabilities. He has to allow it to shine now – don’t hide it from the world. Be what you are capable of being, do what you are capable of doing.

“It’s interesting to see because I’m like watching him after practice and they’re working. I’m like, ‘Yo, this kid wants to be special. This kid is going to be special.’ If you search for it long enough, you will find it.”

Rice found it. On a defense with Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, he was a player that opposing offenses had to account for. He remains the last Bucs' player to have 10 sacks in a season.

With Spence, that might be coming to an end.

“I think Noah could be something special – I truly do,” Rice said. “I think he can. He has to believe in himself, he has to believe in his abilities, but I think he has the capabilities of doing something different – doing something unique. I really do. I see him working after practice – much like myself when I played here – and I can’t help but to harken my thoughts back to those nostalgic moments of greatness. I think he has it in him.”

That's pretty heady praise for an end who started only three games as a rookie. Still, Spence had 5 ½ sacks.

"He's giving us great effort, that's what we expect from everybody,” Koetter said. “He's playing hard. He played a little  bit more in the second half in run situations, trying to get some work in some first and second-down (situations), not just playing in sub defense. That's what preseason games are for, you're working on stuff."

 Koetter laughed when asked if it was important that a Bucs' player got 10 sacks.

"It seems to be – to you guys,” Koetter said. “You sure talk about it a lot. The last I heard, the object of the game was to win the game. Seems like that 10-sack number…if you win the game, who cares? I just told Simeon Rice, though, we'd suit him up if he thought he could get 10. He said he could get us five. He'll get us five and teach those young guys how to get some."

Rice said it is less important to him to be honored by the Ring of Honor or the Hall of Fame than it used to be.

“It matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as it used to because I know what I was,” Rice said. “When you rule your decade, that’s what it is. It mattered so much more when my parents were alive. My pops passed away this past year, so it doesn’t have the same luster. I wanted him to be able to enjoy that moment. That’s what it was about. I am my father’s legacy. I’m my mother’s legacy. They’re not going to be able to enjoy that moment. That’s a moment that you always give to your family – you give the shout out and you talk about those moments when you first embarked into the sport. I wanted to let them know that their investment paid off – in a physical form.

“When you could do it in your sleep (get a sack), it becomes routine. It’s effervescent. It’s something that you work for. But you have to keep in mind, I knew I was special. I’m just being honest with you. I worked hard and it was a payoff. At a certain point, it was my job to be special, it was my job to be a playmaker, it was my job to be different, it was my job to cause sack fumbles. From the moment I got in this league my position coach was ‘Mean Joe Greene’ of the Steel Curtain – the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers He told me after my rookie year, ‘Simeon, once you show you’re special, you can never be normal again.’ That’s what he told me as a 22-year-old rookie in the NFL. He was like, ‘Simeon, you’re special. You could never be an average player again’ – and I never was.”

Might Spence someday be the one that fans speak of wistfully? The one with the burst? The one with the Inspector Gadget arms?

“They don’t come around – it’s a generational thing to have that type of ability,” Rice said. “If you look at an NFL roster, great players come around – there’s only going to be one J.J. Watt in the NFL, there’s only going to be one Warren Sapp in the NFL, there’s only going to be one player similar to myself. It’s a once in a lifetime situation – you’ve got to take advantage of it. I truly believe that with the ability that Noah [Spence] has, that he has something that he hasn’t shown the world yet that he’s capable of being. He could be in a very select group.”


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