Sidney Rice had 31 receptions and 4 TDs in his rookie season (2007). Those 4 TDs led the team and all NFC rookies and ranked him 2nd among all NFL rookies. Heading into his sophomore season, the 6-4 Rice looked like an emerging young talent at WR.
Then in his 2nd season, Rice battled an injury and even though he caught 4 more TDs, he saw his reception total fall from 31 to 15. That resulted in the perception of Rice going from an emerging talent to a player trying to regain his form.
After 4 games in 2009, and 4 games with veteran QB Brett Favre, Rice looks more like a player who is on the verge of realizing his true potential.
“Sidney grows in leaps and bounds and I think there is great confidence between him and Brett,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Monday night.
Rice was one of the hardest-working players on the team this offseason, spending much of his time at Winter Park and even working with former Viking great Cris Carter and Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.
So far this season, the hard work is paying off. In 4 games, Rice has 172 yards and 4 TDs on 14 catches. One of his TDs came in Monday night’s win over the Green Bay Packers, a team he’s now found the endzone against in 4 games.
“It was great finding the endzone,” Rice said in the locker room after the game. “I didn’t think he (Favre) saw me at first when I came out of my break but I looked back around and he let the ball go and I was going to get inside my defender and caught the ball right there at the goal line.”
You can’t help but wonder if part of Rice’s emergence this season, beyond the hard work he put in this offseason, is due to the presence of Favre, an 18-year veteran who surely realizes the advantages of a WR with Rice’s frame and physical gifts.
Rice himself said on Monday night that he’s noticed Favre mastering the intricacies of the passing game during practice.
“We see it all the time at practice,” Rice explained. “The different things he does to try and take the coverage off of certain guys and then come back to them sometimes while he’s not even looking at that guy.”
Rice is correct. On both of his TDs this season, Favre was able to look off the defender covering Rice and hit him in stride for a score.
Another key to Rice’s emergence and the developing chemistry between QB and WR, Rice says, is simple communication.
“Coaches talk about communication all the time and that’s one thing we try to do throughout the week in practice,” Rice explained. “Just staying in Brett’s ear and letting him know what we see there on the outside in certain coverages.”
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