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Broncos sign Simeon Rice

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

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ENGLEWOOD — The black luxury sedan, buffed to a summer sun sheen, sat idling outside the Broncos’ Dove Valley complex Monday, a sign of things to come.

A sign the Broncos think they can go places this season and that the player the car was waiting for can help get them there. With that, it was three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice who agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Broncos just before being whisked away.

"I wanted to play with a class organization and oh my God, I was so blown away because I’ve never experienced anything like this," Rice said by phone shortly after leaving the Broncos offices. "I talked to Sam Adams. I talked to John Lynch, a few guys on the team, they love it here.

"Tampa was great but this situation is a class above it all. The way they treated me from the owner to the team on down."

Rice’s deal includes no signing bonus, but the Broncos agreed to guarantee the base salary and add in about $1 million in performance bonuses. Rice, who has eight career seasons with at least 10 sacks, had also visited Tennessee, New York and St. Louis,but only the Rams had made a contract proposal before Rice agreed with the Broncos.

However the Rams, with James Hall and Leonard Little in the two defensive end spots, couldn’t offer as much money as the Broncos guaranteed or as much playing time as Rice could have in the Denver defense. Hall, like Rice, is a Tom Condon client andscheduled to make $3.25 million this season and $3 million next season,so the Rams were limited in what they could do for Rice on top of that.

The Broncos brought Rice in for a visit and dinner Sunday night and finished with negotiations Monday afternoon. The 12th year veteran is coming off left shoulder surgery, which had concerned some of the teams that had given him a physical in recent weeks.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had released Rice before training camp, saying he failed his physical, but Rice has said it was also because he would not take a $2.5 million pay cut from his scheduled $7.25 million salary.

"It’s a challenge for me to get back on the Mount Rushmore of football where I’m at my happiest," Rice said. "I’m setting the bar high for myself and this is the place I can do it. And I’m excited about going and barging right into it. I’m going to go out and play with reckless abandon and playing with all I have and devoting my true best to establish it."

"With Sim we can be special," said Broncos safety John Lynch, who was Rice’s teammate in Tampa for three seasons. "I think the thing that always bothered me, was the rap I think that he got was he can’t play the run. I don’t think that’s true. It doesn’t always look the prettiest, but he got the job done and did it well. He’s a funny guy and his teammates love him, but sometimes he gets the knock of being some kind of character problem. But I can certainly vouch for his character and his ability."

After evaluating how their defense played in the preseason, and with the season-ending injury to Ebenezer Ekuban as well as the release of end Kenard Lang to go with two rookies (Tim Crowder and Jarvis Moss) slated to be in the rotation at defensive end, the Broncos got serious about trying to acquire Rice.

"When Eb went down I think it became more of a reality to get Sim in here," said Lynch, who was one of those at dinner with Rice Sunday night. "I’ve said all along, I know what he can bring to the table. We were always one of the better defenses in Tampa and when he got there (as a free agent in 2001) we became one of the best. It was clear cut, we were No. 1 in every category, and a lot of things took us over the top to that level, but he was a big part of that."

"Obviously, he’s a big-time pass rusher, everybody knows that," Shanahan said. "He’s got a lot of talent."

Rice played in just eight games last season because of his shoulder troubles and had surgery to repair the damage. Rice had told Lynch and others in the league, however, that noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews had recently advised him the shoulder joint was ready for him to play and that it was just a matter of Rice getting his strength back.

The Titans, however, who gave Rice a physical Aug. 2,still believed Rice wouldn’t be ready to play by the season’s second or third week.

"I got hurt. You get hurt, that’s it," Rice said. "The year before that, my performance helped a team that got into the playoffs. You look at the defense without me this year, and that tells a story in itself after I left. I’m not focused on that too much. I going to move forward in my passion for what I want to get back to the level I play on. And I’m saying that because it’s a special place. It won’t take me long."

The Broncos will have to make a roster move to accommodate Rice once he formally signs the deal and takes to the practice field with the rest of the team Wednesday. They are expected to make a cut this morning and then turn Rice’s deal into the league to get the veteran onto the roster.

Asked about his health right now and if missing an entire training camp would affect him, Rice said, "I’m going to try to test the water and see where I am physically," Rice said. "I know I’m stronger. Am I 100 percent? No. But I’m not damaged either like I was. It’s going to be a long road. It’s going to be a tough path. But it’s something that I welcome.I’ve not gone to camp with a holdout but went on to (be defensive) rookie of the year and went on to the Pro Bowl. And that’s where the legend began. I’m excited man. I’m on the trampoline of life, jumping up and down right now. This is a situation that I want to make the best of and play to the best of my ability. And asked if he would be on the practice field Wednesday, getting ready to play against the Bills Sunday, Rice said, "I’m here for everything. I didn’t come here just to see the great Rocky Mountains," Rice said. "Yeah, I’m good. It’s going to be hot."

legwoldj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2359.

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