EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice bristled at the notion that he’s taking his time to come back from hip surgery, saying Wednesday he wants nothing more than to play against the Packers this weekend.
Rice had the procedure in late August and hasn’t played this season. He returned to practice two weeks ago, and the Vikings have one week left to move him from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster before he’ll be ineligible to play at all this year.
Rice has full clearance from the team’s medical staff, and the Vikings have put the final decision about when he’s ready in his Rice’s hands.
Coming off a Pro Bowl season with an expiring contract for a team whose season is on the brink of implosion, Rice might not have much to gain by playing in 2010. But he spoke out Wednesday against speculation that he’s more concerned about his value on the market as a soon-to-be restricted free agent.
“I’ve not spoken about money — not one time — since I’ve been here,” said Rice, a second-round draft pick in 2007. “This is all about being healthy. I want to be healthy. I want to have a good, long career, so I have to protect myself as well.”
After addressing reporters in the locker room, Rice posted an entry on his blog at sidneyrice18.com titled “A Bunch of Bull” in which he adamantly denied a disinterest in playing this season for self-protection reasons.
“I wouldn’t dare do the fans or my teammates like that,” Rice wrote.
He also reiterated he plans to play on Sunday against Green Bay and defended his decision to sit out last week at Chicago.
“I went pretty hard in practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and I was feeling significant discomfort Friday and Saturday when I woke up,” Rice wrote. “So I decided not to go out there and risk getting hurt or, in my eyes, hurting the team by playing before I was ready and taking away from the team by not getting healthy.”
Neither the Vikings nor Rice have described the surgery or the injury in detail, but Rice said it was “very serious.” He said he’s been trying his best to get back on the field.
“I want to be playing. I want to be out there with my teammates, having fun with those guys,” Rice said. “It doesn’t always happen like that. But know that I am pushing to be out there.”
When asked if he’s confident Rice will play this year, coach Brad Childress said he didn’t know. He said Rice is not being coerced to return sooner than he’s ready.
“It’s not a deal where you boot him out of the car and say, ‘You’re in.’ The guy’s got to be able to function and function at a high level,” Childress said.
Asked whether he thought Rice was excited to come back, Childress said yes.
“I do from the standpoint that I don’t think he’d be out here practicing these last couple weeks,” the coach said. “It’s really easy to malinger and hang around the training room and say, ‘Hey, it’s just not right.’ I don’t see that from Sidney.”
The Vikings were depleted at wide receiver by the end of their loss to the Bears, with not only Rice sitting on the sideline but Bernard Berrian (groin) and Percy Harvin (ankle) out of the game as well. Berrian was on the active list, but he aggravated the injury and never played. Harvin got hurt in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
Harvin was limited in Wednesday’s practice, though he said prior to the workout his left ankle is “doing a lot better.” Berrian didn’t practice at all. Given his health and the fact that Randy Moss is gone, Rice’s presence — even as a part-time contributor — is that much more critical for the Vikings.
“This offense has missed him quite a bit — our deep passes, in the red zone,” Harvin said.
However, Harvin refused to use Rice’s absence as an excuse for Minnesota’s lack of success in turning long drives into touchdowns.
“When you’re on the 2-yard line, when you’ve got the best back in football, Rice has nothing to do with being able to run the ball in,” he said.
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