Shock. That's how Ronde Barber described Simeon Rice's release on Thursday night.
"It was a shock to everybody," Barber said after practice on Friday, the first of training camp. "Personal feelings aside — I love the guy. They (the Bucs) had to make a decision, and whether it was the right one or the wrong one, we'll find out as the season goes on."
Rice's release means that Patrick Chukwurah and Gaines Adams — two players that weren't with the Buccaneers last year — will compete for the starting right guard position. Chukwurah appeared to work with the first team on Friday, while Adams, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, worked with the second team.
Chukwurah was a free-agent signing from Denver and has never started full time in the NFL.
Barber admitted that when a player of Rice's stature is released, it hurts a bit more. Barber and his veteran teammates faced similar emotions when middle linebacker Shelton Quarles was released earlier this year.
"It's not as if these things have not happened before, because they have," Barber said. "You just don't expect it, that's all. The shock factor more than anything is what you have to get over the first couple of days (of practice). But somebody will step up. That's the nature of this business."
New defensive line coach Larry Coyer was looking forward to the chance to work with Rice for the first time.
"I truly feel for the guy," Coyer said. "But it's part of this league, and I don't think anything should surprise anyone in this day and age. It can happen both ways."
Coyer compared Rice's release to that of Al Wilson, who played for Coyer in Denver.
"They say you don't love your players — that's bull," Coyer said. "If you don't then you can't play football."
Head coach Jon Gruden wished Rice well and didn't think he would be out of work for long.
"Yeah, we'll miss him and I want to thank him for all he did for us," Gruden said. "And I look forward to seeing him at some point this season. I assume someone will pick him up quickly."
Quarterback Jeff Garcia faced Rice on several occasions during his pro career and grew to respect Rice's ability to influence the offense's game plan.
"You knew that he would be coming off the edge hard, and that your left tackle was going to have a rough day," Garcia. "He forced you to use a running back to help chip (Rice) as he got into the backfield, and that influenced what you did in the passing game."
Rice is third on Tampa Bay's all-time sack list with 69.5 career sacks as a Buc, behind only Hall of Fame end Lee Roy Selmon (78 ½) and current Oakland tackle Warren Sapp (77). Rice has 121 career sacks, which is 13th on the all-time list. Rice also fueled the Buccaneers' run to the Super Bowl XXXVII championship, the Buccaneers' only title.
But Rice missed the last eight games of last season with a shoulder injury, one that required surgery. His inability to be ready physically for the start of camp led to his release.
That time, Barber said, was difficult for Rice, but he tried to not let it effect his normally ebullient personality.
"Simeon was down last year when he was hurt and that's unfortunate," Barber said. "He would spit out quotes that you guys (media) love, but we don't understand. He had a great personality in the locker room and a positive attitude that we will miss.
"He carries a great legacy here. He did great things."
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.