Bucs three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice is having trouble finding the quarterback these days.

Rice, who notched a team-high 15 sacks last season, has recorded just one quarterback takedown through the first three games of the 2004 regular season. That sack came last Sunday in Oakland after Raiders QB Kerry Collins slid to the ground in an effort to keep the clock running late in the fourth quarter.

According to Rice, who is regarded as one of the league’s best pass rushers, he’s facing an unusual amount of double teams and/or protection slides his way this season.

“It’s just a different look,” said Rice. “When you are playing and you get in a double team situation, it’s an adjustment. I have to adjust to the schemes. I feel like a rookie again and it’s a good thing. It’s another growth period I can hit. It’s another growth situation that I am about to incur upon. For me to be able to get this, this is going to give me the privilege to master it all. Once I am able to really knock through this, it’s going to come.”

Dating back to the 2003 season, Rice has recorded just one sack over the past six regular season games. With the exception of the “gimme” in Oakland, the last time number 97 notched a sack was against the New Orleans Saints on December 7, 2003. Rice, who has registered a whopping 42 sacks over the last three seasons, recorded three quarterback takedowns in that contest. He’s hoping his next sack will come sooner rather than later.

“I am going to persevere, I promise you that,” said Rice. “I always do. When all else fails, I am going to lean on my ability, and my work ethic, and everything I put into what I do on the daily. I am frustrated a little bit, but I am not afraid. I am not bewildered. It’s another situation. I am going to challenge it, like it is challenging me.”

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