The Sidney Rice situation never passed the smell test. Guy has a breakout year in 2009, skips most of the offseason program amid low-level rumors he wants a contract extension and then fully participates in a required June minicamp. Then, a month before training camp, his agent reveals he has had a hip injury since January that should be healed in time for the start of the regular season.
Something smells rotten, but unfortunately we might never know the hows and whys and the true timetable of how this went down. What we do know is this: The Vikings will play perhaps half of their season -- a span that includes games against the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots -- without their top receiver.
The Vikings, in fact, are suddenly down to one reliable and productive veteran receiver. Bernard Berrian has been injury-free this summer, but Rice never got on the practice field and No. 3 receiver Percy Harvin has been sidelined for most of the summer by migraines. As we discussed last week, Harvin's status will be game-to-game for the rest of his career until he can get the issue under control.
As it stands now, veteran Greg Lewis is the Vikings' No. 2 receiver. Check out the chart that accompanies this post and tell me who you think should be the No. 3. Jaymar Johnson was placed on injured reserve last week, and you wonder whether the Vikings would consider moving return man Darius Reynaud back to receiver after a summer experiment at running back.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who is back and healthy after catching 55 passes last season. But there is no way around it: The Vikings are dangerously thin at receiver in an offense that skewed heavily toward the passing game last season. And I'm sorry, that won't change when and if washed-up veteran Javon Walker is added to the mix.
It will be interesting to see if the Vikings pursue a trade over the next few weeks. San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson is available, but his looming three-game NFL suspension would make him unavailable for at least part of the time Rice is absent. I could be wrong, but I don't see that happening as an emergency measure.
I've considered the Packers to be the NFC North's top team since the spring, and this news does nothing but reinforce my thoughts on that matter.