TAMPA — It has come to this. Forty-three year-old Simeon Rice, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2007, says he wants to come back and help the Bucs rush the quarterback.
Rice already is on the Bucs’ Mount Rushnomore, right there with Lee Roy Selmon and Warren Sapp.
But for 10 games and 10 games only, he’s willing to come out of retirement, put away the gold watch and clean someone else’s clock.
"They have no pass rush," Rice said. "None. I can get them to the playoffs. They got 10 games left. I got 12 sacks in me. Easy work."
Rice first got the idea watching Tampa Bay get throttled at Arizona 38-33 two weeks ago as an invitee to the game by the Bucs to schmooze with corporate sponsors. Tuesday, he sent Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford a note saying he would like to come back and help the team win, adding that he wasn’t "half kidding."
By the way, right now Rice would rank third among defensive ends on the 2017 team in sacks with zero. Rice is the last Tampa Bay player to have at least 10 sacks in a season, 14 in 2005.
Rice wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that if the Bucs wanted to dominate, "call the dominator. #UnstoppablePassRush."
Rice said he knows what the Bucs — and everyone else — is thinking. He’s 43. Maybe if was 33 or hadn’t been out of the league for a decade, this would be a consideration.
"But there’s chronological age, and then there’s your fitness age," Rice said. "They say, ‘He’s 43.’ But I still train three times a day. Why? Because it’s a habit. I’m still doing 360-degree dunks. They won’t even see me coming."
Rice, who had 122 career sacks in 12 NFL seasons, wasn’t getting much respect from players or coaches at One Buc Place on Wednesday, even if it appears the defense can’t find a quarterback with a map and a flashlight.
"Trying to come out here, some young killas out here," defensive end Robert Ayers said of whether Rice could still play. "All due respect to him, but he can’t do it no more. He better leave it to the young guns."
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith was similarly skeptical: "I don’t want to comment on that. He was a great pass rusher. I know when I was 43, I couldn’t do what I was doing when I was 25."
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was politely dismissive.
"If he said he can (play), you know, by all means," McCoy said. "I think that’s just a lot of talk. He’s 43. Your body changes. But I love Simeon, man. Within a couple of years, he’ll have a gold (Hall of Fame) jacket.
"Person like that, it ain’t like his track record isn’t great. I don’t know if he’s serious, but I just kind of laughed at it. We always have a good time when he comes around, and he’s given me some great advice about things he and 99 (Sapp) used to do."
The way the bad news keeps spewing out of One Buc Place, Rice at the very least provided a welcome distraction Wednesday. The Bucs placed defensive end Noah Spence, their most promising young edge rusher, on injured reserve. He will need surgery to keep one of his shoulders from popping out of its socket.
The Bucs also announced the signing of veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp, who is 10 years younger than Rice but has only 28 career sacks.
Smith took responsibility for the Bucs’ latest defensive collapse, in which they were unable to hold onto a touchdown lead with just over three minutes remaining against Buffalo on Sunday.
"Ultimately it’s the guy who is calling the plays, and we’re not getting it done," Smith said. "That’s the bottom line. There is one guy that is held responsible, and that is me. We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got the players."
Unlike safety T.J. Ward and defensive tackle Chris Baker, who complained about their lack of playing time after Sunday’s game, McCoy simply responded to a question about how Smith’s decision Sunday to rush three down linemen and a stand-up linebacker on some third downs affected his ability to get to the quarterback.
"I just play what they call. I don’t have a say-so in what we run. I just kind of go with it," McCoy said. "I’m a team guy, so I do what they ask me to do. Do I feel like I could’ve been more effective in a different way? Yes."
Maybe McCoy would benefit from a guy like Rice, even at 43.
"I could right the wrong, the way it should’ve been," said Rice, who finished his career with the Colts and Broncos. "If you want a playmaker … I’m not going to embarrass myself. What do they have to lose?"
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud.