Buccaneers’ Jersey Countdown: Number 97

We continue the countdown of the best players in Buccaneers’ history, organized by jersey number.  When it came to number 97, the choice was easy.

Even with team history being limited to a single championship season, the Buccaneers have sported talented players on the roster since the beginning.  Yes, even in the 1970’s, Doug Williams was a member of the Bucs.  Despite a great deal of losing, talented players have graced the field for Tampa Bay.

Today, we continue the countdown of the very best.

We have recently begun a countdown of the best players to ever wear a Bucs uniform, and breaking it down by jersey number.  It’s time to take a look at number 97, and the choice was very easy.

The choice is Simeon Rice.

Simeon Rice was the third choice overall in the 1996 draft, but he was not a homegrown Buc.  Rice actually spent the first five years of his career in Arizona with the Cardinals, posting 51.5 sacks.  He signed a five-year deal with the Bucs prior to the 1996 season, worth North of $30 million.

I think the fans will agree, he was worth every penny.

Over his first five years in Tampa, Rice was dominant, with no season where he posted any less than 11 sacks.  He was first team All-Pro in 2002, and went to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2002 and 2003.  In that span, Rice racked up 20.5 sacks, and was runner up for the league lead in each season.

Simeon was also a big-time contributor when it counted most, the month of January.  In five playoff starts for the Bucs, Rice posted seven sacks.  In the run to the Super Bowl title, his talent was at the forefront, dominating with four sacks, including two in the 48-21 Super Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders.

His 69.5 career sacks as a member of the Bucs leaves him second in franchise history to our selection that wore 99, Warren Sapp.  Rice has not been elected to the Ring of Honor as of yet, but it should only be a matter of time.  Many even make the case that he should be enshrined in Canton.

Whether or not that happens, Rice will live in the hearts of Bucs’ fans forever, and he is by far the best player in franchise history to wear number 97.