Rice Rejoins Cardinals

The Simeon Rice saga ended Thursday when the disgruntled defensive end signed a $4.25 million, one-year tender offer and returned in time to practice with the Arizona Cardinals.

Rice, whose 44 sacks over four years are more than the combined career total for the present front four of Arizona's defense, should play Sunday night in the Cardinals' home opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

But coach Vince Tobin wouldn't say how much.

The Cardinals have asked for a two-week roster exemption, which would allow them to carry 54 players until Rice gets into football shape, and Tobin said the NFL's response would determine how much Rice is used.

"He told me he's been really working out, and I certainly believe him," Tobin said. "Simeon is a guy that has done an awful lot of working out over his career. He loves that type of thing."

Rice has been missed.

The team was forced to field a patchwork defensive line in the season opener because of Rice's holdout and an injury to defensive end Andre Wadsworth. Arizona didn't have a sack in a 21-16 loss to the New York Giants.

Rice made no secret last year about his unhappiness as the Cardinals struggled to a 6-10 record, but he set a team record with 16 1/2 sacks and was positioned to get a big contract as a free agent. Then the Cardinals applied the franchise tag.

The dialogue turned bitter as Rice and his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, tried to get the front office to budge off its tender offer, which is the average of the top five salaries at the position.

At one point, Rice called Phoenix "the armpit of the world."

This time, he explained the comment as part of the bargaining process.

"You know what? Personally, I feel like I am the deodorant," Rice said. "I am the spray. I've got to come in here and bring a little different seasoning to the table. It's all good. It's funny. This is a game, and that's all it is."

He said he watched the Cardinals fizzle against the Giants, and decided to accept the situation.

"You can't kick a brick and expect it not to hurt," Rice said. "I mean, the situation is what it is, and there's no getting out of it. I love to do what I do. My heart brought me back the passion of playing."

His return was delayed 24 hours when Rice took exception to a scolding he received from general manager Bob Ferguson after reporting Wednesday morning. He took his physical, but hen left without signing.

Rice reconsidered overnight, and was back the next morning.

He and Ferguson said it was water under the bridge. Quarterback Jake Plummer, who last fall called Rice a distraction the team could do without, also wanted bygones to be bygones.

Plummer snapped at a reporter who asked about the locker room rift, and said he was glad to have another starter back.

"Last week we didn't have any pressures on the quarterback, so he's a big addition and we're glad to have him out here," Plummer said. "The team now has got to welcome him with open arms."


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