Titans LB Monty Rice Poised for Massive Season

Tennessee Titans third-year linebacker Monty Rice appears poised for a breakout campaign. Rice projects as a starter next to free-agent signing Azeez Al-Shaair. The Titans are trusting Rice to help replace David Long Jr. and Zach Cunningham. Rice possesses every trait necessary to establish himself as a high-impact starter in 2023.

Rice appeared in 13 regular-season contests with six starts as a sophomore in 2022. Rice was very productive, having recorded career-highs in tackles (66) and tackles for loss (4). Rice was excellent when defending the run. The former Georgia standout earned a run-stopping grade of 73.8 from Pro Football Focus. Rice showcased growth in a number of areas as a second-year contributor.

Rice recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports. Rice discussed his sophomore campaign, never being satisfied, growing into a full-time starting role, and more. Rice should make a massive impact on the 2023 Titans.

JM: You played in 13 games as a sophomore with six starts. You recorded a career-high 66 tackles. You took a big step forward from your rookie season. How do you reflect on the year?

Monty Rice: I thought I had a pretty great season all things considered. I was coming back from an Achilles injury and I managed to put my best foot forward. Obviously I could always improve though. It could have been better. 

The ability has always been there all along. People are finally starting to take notice.

JM: You overcame a ton of adversity to have a good season. What was the biggest lesson you learned through the ups and downs of your second season?

Monty Rice: I don’t think I had ups and downs to be honest with you. That’s my opinion. Just me being out there was a success. I remember my first game back against the Washington Commanders in Week 5. That was such a big deal to me even though I only played special teams in that game.

You know what I’m saying? Coming back from the injury was a success. I just felt blessed to be back out there. I got better as the year went by.

JM: I understand what you’re saying. We’ve seen Achilles injuries end careers. You didn’t let that happen.

Monty Rice: I never viewed it that way. That thought never entered my mind. If you’re a dog, you’re a dog. Kobe Bryant shot two free throws and walked off the court after tearing his Achilles. The great ones are always going to find a way to overcome adversity. He was like 35 years old when that happened. It’s all about how you attack rehab every day.

JM: I agree. The way you came back from it, it speaks volumes about your professional mentality. Looking forward to Year Three, Which area of your game do you think has grown the most from last season to this offseason?

Monty Rice: I’m just continuing to learn and advance my overall knowledge of the game. I’m always looking to pick up on offensive tendencies and things of that nature. I already play fast, but as I keep learning and growing, I’m going to play even faster. 

As long as I keep playing fast and learning from my teammates, it’s going to get better. I learn from all of my teammates. You can learn from another young player as well. Everybody sees football in a different way. That means there’s always something new for you to learn. 

Sometimes we see things from a different perspective. That’s why I love learning from the guys in our locker room. That’s what I’m seeing on this play KB [Kevin Byard] and he may correct me or agree with me. I just want to keep learning from the people around me, my teammates and coaches.

JM: Having a healthy offseason has made a difference I imagine. You’re out there working on your craft.

Monty Rice: I got to do some of that last summer as well. I would say I was pretty healthy by the end of August, but I was placed on PUP because I needed a little extra time just to be safe. I got a lot of that work in.

The place I was rehabbing at just happened to also be attended by Marcus Maye, Keanu Neal and Cameron Jordan. Reuben Foster was out there as well. There were a bunch of different guys in attendance. I learned so much from those guys last summer.

That was a huge plus for me. Being around those guys before my second season, it was huge. Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye taught me so much. The list goes on. I love learning and gaining knowledge from those around me.

JM: That’s a really cool story. The Titans parted ways with Zach Cunningham and David Long Jr. They don’t do that unless they have faith in Monty Rice to be an every-down defender.  Do you see a huge opportunity in front of you this season?

Monty Rice: I do, but I’m just going to control what I can control. When I’m out there on the field, I’m going to put my best foot forward to execute my assignment. Ultimately, I’ll be judged off what I do when I’m on the field. That’s all that matters. I just want to put my best foot forward. I’m ready to attack training camp with the guys.

JM: It’s a new-look room with the additions of Azeez Al-Shaair, Luke Gifford and Ben Niemann. What were your thoughts on the inside linebacker room at OTAs?

Monty Rice: It’s an extremely versatile room. I think we have a bunch of different players that all work well together. As long as we keep getting better, we can be the most dominant linebacker group in the NFL. People may think that sounds crazy, but they just don’t know how good we can be. That’s what the film is going to show everybody on Sundays.

JM: We love that. Have the Titans laid out a clear developmental plan for you this summer?

Monty Rice: Typically speaking, an NFL team will give you an individualized plan at OTAs. You’ll meet with the coaches and discuss what are some things you feel you can get better at. The coaches will have their input on areas of improvement as well.

I’m focused on playing with better pad level and hand usage. That just comes naturally with time and reps. I’m going to be more disciplined. I know every linebacker had individualized plans to work on.

JM: We’ve appreciated your time today. As we head towards training camp here, what are your goals for the 2023 season? We can’t wait to watch Monty Rice this season.

Monty Rice: My goal is to be the best Monty Rice I can be. Whatever that means, I’m always in competition with myself. It’s me versus the man in the mirror. I’m not in a race with anybody else. 

I’m just trying to get better and be the best Monty Rice possible. Whatever that may be, I don’t know yet. I haven’t reached my ceiling. 

The sky’s the limit for Monty Rice.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

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