The defensive end has endured episodes, including recently, since he was a teenager.
By ROGER MILLS
Published August 5, 2004
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Simeon Rice missed the first seven practices of training camp after suffering heart palpitations, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats during a recent workout. He has not been placed on any medication.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - For years, he has pushed his body to extremes in Arizona's sweltering heat and Tampa's overbearing humidity.
And all along, he has had a little secret.
Since 19, defensive end Simeon Rice has suffered from heart palpitations, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats and confirmed the latest episode, a slightly more serious one, kept him out of the first seven practices of training camp.
"I've been dealing with this throughout my life, and to me, it's not a problem," Rice said Wednesday. "It's something I can live and die with."
Rice, 30, said at one point over the weekend, his heart had to be shocked by a defibrillator. He said doctors considered putting him on blood thinners but found no indications of blood clots. He has not been placed on any medication.
"I've never got shocked," Rice said. "I've never had anyone or any foreign objects needed to help stimulate my heart. For me, it was a big deal. When you have doctors telling you you're in a life-threatening situation, it's a little weird."
After extensive tests in Los Angeles, Rice was cleared and returned to the field in limited action. He was kept out of the goal-line drills, and the Bucs plan to ease him back into the mix.
"We couldn't wait to see him," defensive line coach Rod Marinelli said. "He's our lead dog, and any time you get your lead dog back in the group, it's awesome. He's happy. He's smiling. He's feeling good."
But he wasn't feeling well the past two weeks.
"It was a day in Arizona. I think it was 120 degrees, and on the field, it was 130," Rice said. "I couldn't even get through my workout. That's when it started.
"By nature, with camp coming up, I'm trying to go hard; stay up a little bit, hit a couple clubs and keep it moving; sow my oats before camp starts before being totally locked down with a bunch of hard legs. But I don't think that was the right practice. It put me down a little bit."
Rice said during past bouts, he "could feel his heart beating funny," and he would get "really tired, really fast."
"Normally, I just rest for a week and a half, and that's all I really require," said Rice, who received a call from former teammate Warren Sapp over the weekend.
Displaying his usual high spirits, the Bucs' premier pass rusher said he intended to practice even though he knew something wasn't right.
"I planned on going through it all," he said. "I was going to tell the coaches and training staff that I would (cautiously) get into it."
Although his father, Henry Rice, 65, had quadruple bypass surgery two years ago, Rice said he does not plan drastic changes to his rigorous offseason workout program.
"I might tone it down sometimes when I get really strained," Rice said. "But that's how I live."
Teammates said they felt relief and elation having Rice back on the field.
It was a little scary," cornerback Brian Kelly said. "That's when you put football aside. It wasn't about him rushing out here to get back to practice. It was him taking the necessary steps to get checked up. That's a serious issue. You can't rehab a heart."
Coach Jon Gruden also couldn't wait for Rice's return.
"He didn't get back in town until about one in the morning, and that's officially correct because I was waiting outside his room," Gruden said. "He'll be back in full form pretty soon."
Rice admitted he was hesitant to take further tests but was pressed by team doctor Joe Diaco, who told him his condition could lead to strokes and other major complications.
"I looked into his eyes, and he told me it was something his father had passed from," Rice said. "This is something that being that he is in the medical field, it's something I should go and do. So I did it.
Rice has 411/2 sacks in three seasons with the Bucs and is seven shy of 100 overall. Rice has four years left on a five-year, $41-million contract, including a $20-million signing bonus, signed in March 2003. "Whatever happens, happens," Rice said. "I don't live my life scared. I feel like I'm right with God, so it's all good."