Thursday, November 1, 2012
Blogger Blitz: Curious case of Sidney Rice
By Kevin Seifert
Sunday's game at CenturyLink Field is a reminder of a still-curious chapter of the Minnesota Vikings' rebuilding process.
The Vikings will face a Seattle Seahawks team whose leading receiver is none other than Sidney Rice, the former Vikings draft pick and Pro Bowler who was allowed to depart via free agency two years ago at age 24. Rice is exactly the kind of big downfield receiver the Vikings are missing in their lineup, and the Vikings have never offered an adequate public explanation for his departure.
Here's what we know: Injuries slowed Rice in two of his four seasons with the Vikings. He played through a knee injury in 2008 that limited him to 15 receptions in 13 games, and hip surgery prior to the 2010 season cost him 10 games. In between, of course, Rice had a monster season with 83 receptions, 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009.
The Vikings approached Rice's free agency cautiously, choosing to use their franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway instead, and didn't try to match the five-year, $41 million contract he signed with the Seahawks.
I'm not sure that Rice was eager to return after former coach Brad Childress questioned the timing of his hip surgery and the speed of his return. But all NFL teams have tools for retaining players they want to keep, and the Vikings didn't utilize them in Rice's case.
Were they concerned about his injury past and potential for future ailments? Their actions seemed to indicate it, even though no one has said that publicly.
Sure enough, Rice missed seven games because of injury in 2011. He is healthy now, however, and more importantly, the Vikings haven't come close to replacing his presence. Since the start of the 2011 season, Vikings receivers not named Percy Harvin -- Rice's 2009 teammate -- have caught six touchdown passes.
Hopefully that long intro didn't spoil the inherent wisdom contained in this week's Blogger Blitz.