The decision to jettison Randy Moss to the waiver wire on Tuesday came as a surprise to many. But as Vikings QB Brett Favre told reporters on Wednesday, “In this league… you should never be surprised by anything.”
The Minnesota fan base has demonstrated it will miss Moss’ play-making ability on the field, but it can now look forward to another receiver’s return to practice who was a key factor to the Vikings success last season.
Sidney Rice returned to practice on Wednesday and showed encouraging signs of improvement, providing a pleasant sight after a span of days that could be simply described as turbulent.
Rice’s return means that the Vikings now have a 21-day period to evaluate his condition and must decide by the end of that period (Nov. 24) if they are to place him on the active roster or Injured Reserve (IR), which would end the Pro-Bowler’s season.
From what I saw during Wednesday’s practice – which wasn’t much – Rice seemed to have no complications running routes. Many of the routes he ran involved sharp cuts, which may indicate that his surgically repaired hip is responding to the rehabilitation.
Although Rice’s return to the practice field is a welcoming sight, don’t expect #18 to jump right back into the mix of things.
“He’s done everything that he can do from a rehabilitation standpoint,” Childress said Wednesday. “Not unlike us with Cedric (Griffin) getting out there. He needs to do football-specific things now that he can’t accomplish with a trainer…There’s going to be a conditioning aspect that’s got to be met. Obviously football’s a physical game, the pounding, running on the turf, the full-speed routes. We’ll just see how he comes through that.”
But if and when Rice does make a return to the playing field, WR Percy Harvin, who benefitted from Moss’ vertical threat, will undoubtedly welcome his presence in that same manner. Harvin’s numbers boosted from 35.3 receiving yards per game (YPG) before Moss’ acquisition to 71.8 YPG during the 4 games with Moss.
Childress never gave indication as to when the decision on Rice’s return would be made – other than it must be done within the 3-week time period – but it’s highly probable that Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals can be ruled out. When looking forward, though, a return next week on the road against the Chicago Bears could provide a boost in an extremely important divisional matchup. In fact, if Rice were to return next week, he may just provide a spark in what will certainly be a decisive turning point in the Vikings season with back-to-back NFC North matchups – the Bears in Week 10 and Green Bay Packers in Week 11.
In his 2 matchups against the Bears last season, Rice averaged 72.5 YPG. Between the pair of games against the Packers, he averaged 55 YPG. Rice recorded 1 TD on both teams in those contests.
If the Vikings coaching and athletic training staff decides to use the entire 21-day period to move Rice to the active roster, his first game back on the gridiron would be on the road against the Washington Redskins, a team he has never faced.
Tags: Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice
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