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To appreciate what Bucs’ Jason Pierre-Paul just accomplished, ask Simeon Rice

 
After becoming the first Tampa Bay player since 2005 to record a 10-sack season, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) exchanged jerseys with San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (90).  The Bucs beat the 49ers, 27-9, Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
After becoming the first Tampa Bay player since 2005 to record a 10-sack season, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) exchanged jerseys with San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (90). The Bucs beat the 49ers, 27-9, Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Nov. 26, 2018|Updated Nov. 26, 2018

TAMPA – There should have been a sonic boom, right? Or something. As it was, Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was given a standing ovation Sunday after he sacked San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens.

He'd done it. For the first time since 2005, a Bucs pass rusher had reached 10 sacks in a season with Pierre-Paul's 10.5. He probably didn't understand why teammate Gerald McCoy was so emotional.

"I've been close," said McCoy, who came up just short with 9.5 sacks in 2013. "It's more about the franchise rather than one person. We got this off our back. Now that he's done it, move on. Talk about something else."

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Talk about Jason Pierre-Paul as a Bucs Pro Bowler.

Or talk to Sim.

That would be the wonderful and ever cosmic Simeon Rice, 44, the last Bucs sacker to do double digits in a season, with 14 in 2005. Rice, decidedly retired after toying with the idea of a comeback at 43, lives in Phoenix. He has taken a break from producing and directing movies to follow the basketball exploits of his son, Jordan Caroline, a top shooting guard for the fifth-ranked University of Nevada Wolf Pack.

"He's killing it," Rice said.

But someone just had to reach out when JPP broke on through to the other side. When it comes to the Bucs, that's the far side of the moon. Planet Simeon, told of JPP's day, reached back.

"The man's words and deeds stand out," Rice said. "All records are made to be broken. I'm happy he's the one."

The two men have never met or spoken. But the gabby, still lovable, still chillin'  Rice feels a connection with Pierre-Paul, 29, the former USF star.

"You want your performance to make waves," Rice said.

Rice made his share while helping the Bucs and their defense rise to the top of the football world. Rice finished with 122 career sacks, including 69.5 in six seasons with Tampa Bay, featuring five 10-sack seasons.

And then: nothing.

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No Bucs player had reached 10 sacks until JPP did Sunday. It was the Snake River Canyon jump. No Buc hit 10 sacks for 12 seasons, the longest such streak in the NFL. From 2005 through 2017, there were 210 10-sack seasons in the NFL. DeMarcus Ware had eight 10-sack seasons. Jason-Pierre Paul had two 10-sack seasons for the New York Giants, including a career-best 16.5 in 2011.

Zip from the Bucs.

Until Sunday.

"I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do, play some good football," Pierre-Paul said.

That he is. Time to give the Bucs credit. They traded for JPP in the offseason and he is one of the few moves that looks good. But time to give more credit to JPP, a very pleasant surprise. He sucked it up and showed everyone after eight seasons in New York and the Giants trading him after deciding his arrow was pointed down, which probably began after the 2015 fireworks accident mangled Pierre-Paul's right hand.

This is a horrible Bucs defense. This is a forgettable Bucs season. We've talked all these years about how the Bucs need a 10-sack guy, but where does it get them now that they've broken through that wall?

No matter. JPP has delivered, and has maybe shown the Giants along the way.

Revenge is his?

"Not necessarily," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm still the same player. It's just the things change. Teams change. It's just the business side of football. There weren't any hard feelings, but things change."

After reaching 10 sacks, Pierre-Paul left the game with a knee injury. But he returned. The hand injury taught him about true pain. Knees are nothing. Trades are nothing.

"He's unselfish," McCoy said. "He plays with a spirit."

Out in Phoenix, Simeon Rice has watched all season, waiting to see if that wall would come down. He hasn't stood around popping champagne corks when Bucs annually came up short of 10 sacks.

"I wanted them to hit it all along," he said.

He salutes JPP.

"In terms of playing in a storm, on a defense that's really not that good, it says a lot about his competitive nature," Rice said. "Think about how far he's come. The injury. The Giants trading him. His journey has been long, but it's been well worth it. For him to exorcise some of the Bucs' demons just adds to it."

It hasn't changed a season, or a defense. But it was a performance that made waves.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or 813.731.8029