The first notion filtered through the media corps as the Broncos went through pre-practice warmups and calisthenics, where onlookers murmured to each other, asking “Where is Simeon Rice?” and “Do you see (No.) 97 out there?”
The answer came after practice, when Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced that the 12-year veteran defensive end was released following an eight-game tenure in which he was inactive twice, started once and logged 11 total tackles and a pass breakup during the six games in which he played. Most notably, he didn’t record a sack, and now has two sacks in his last 14 games played after notching 56.5 sacks in the previous four seasons.
“When we lost Ebenezer (Ekuban), we went out to try to find a proven player that we thought could help us,” Shanahan said. “In the current situation, we felt like we were better with the younger players that we do have. They gave us the best chance to win. That’s the direction (in which) we’re going.”
The team added three younger defensive ends this week — Josh Mallard and Paul Carrington, who played under current defensive-line coach Bill Johnson in Atlanta last year, and rookie Larry Birdine.
When asked whether the release was related to Rice’s shoulder — which has been problematic since last season and led to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ decision to release him in July — Shanahan declined to specify the reason why Rice’s production was below expectations.
“I really can’t tell you what it is,” Shanahan said.
“I wish him well. He’s going to keep on trying to play for another football team. I’ve watched Simeon for a lot of years and he’s played exceptionally well in the National Football League. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Safety John Lynch, who played with Rice during the 2001-03 seasons with Tampa Bay as well as this year, said he was “disappointed” at the news.
“I feel partly responsible for urging him to come here, and from the start it never worked out,” Lynch said. “Everyone, I’m sure, has their reasons. He’s a Hall of Fame player in my mind, and I’m just sorry it didn’t work out here. I’ve seen him at his best, and he’ll go on to have success if he wants to play elsewhere.
“He was frustrated from the start. He’s a guy who demands a lot of himself. He takes a lot of pride in his profession. I think early on he was still struggling with the injury. He thought he was well here, and it just wasn’t working out. Sometimes everyone’s not a match, and this wasn’t a match. It’s disappointing for me because I like both sides and I would’ve liked to see it really work out, but it didn’t, so both sides moved on.”
Also from the practice …
Running back Travis Henry and Lynch were limited in their on-field work; both will be game-time decisions … Shanahan also expects Jay Cutler to be ready to play Sunday.