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Updated: July 28th, 2011 12:09am
Pelissero: Uncommon hip surgery didn't cost Sidney Rice in the end

Pelissero: Uncommon hip surgery didn't cost Sidney Rice in the end

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Throughout the contentious saga of Sidney Rice's hip last season, the Minnesota Vikings and the standout receiver's camp refused to reveal details of the injury or the surgery that sidelined him for three months.

Once Rice entered the open market in pursuit of the mammoth payday he received on Wednesday afternoon, though, word spread among his potential suitors.

Rice underwent a "pick" procedure similar to microfracture knee surgery last Aug. 23 to repair joint cartilage damage suffered in the NFC championship seven months earlier. Doctors poked holes in the hip bone, making it bleed to generate cells that would reconstitute themselves as replacement fibrocartilage to fill the damaged gap.

Knee arthroscopy has been popular in sports medicine for several decades. Hip arthroscopy is a more recent phenomenon, with surgeons expanding its use only in the past five to 10 years and the results accordingly less predictable.

So, the general feeling around the NFL was a team would want to get its hands on Rice before making any offer, putting him through a battery of weight-bearing and plyometric tests to check his range of motion, flexibility, strength, gait, etc.

But with the NFL's transition rules barring free-agent visits and physicals until 5 p.m. Friday and receivers rapidly agreeing to terms on Wednesday, the Seattle Seahawks handed Rice a five-year contract that reportedly included $18.5 million guaranteed -- sealing the fate of his Vikings career that in retrospect was obvious 11 months ago.

Former coach Brad Childress had taken jabs at Rice's conditioning. Rumblings were growing that Rice was unhappy playing out the last year of his rookie contract for $550,000. And when Rice returned, he didn't exactly seem enthused about getting back on the field and ended up sparring with the media about his intentions.

When the time came for the Vikings to choose a franchise player in February, they selected outside linebacker Chad Greenway -- a rising player, but certainly not the type of game changer Rice is capable of being when he's healthy.

Still only 24, Rice didn't even receive the highest restricted tender, which would have been null anyway once the qualification for free agency reverted to four years. And that was a sufficient final slap at Rice's value to the organization for his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to leak word the next day that his client would test the market.

Santonio Holmes set the bar high on Wednesday morning, when he agreed to terms on a five-year, $50 million deal that included $24 million guaranteed. Steve Breaston (Kansas City) and Lance Moore (New Orleans) agreed to five-year deals, too, leaving the Vikings to pick over a list of potential Rice replacements on which Braylon Edwards is the closest alternative.

Through the first two days of post-lockout negotiations, the Vikings have traded for 34-year-old quarterback Donovan McNabb, signed journeyman receiver Devin Aromashodu and re-signed kicker Ryan Longwell. They remain somewhat strapped by the salary cap and weren't getting into a bidding war for a receiver whose overall durability issues they know too well.

There's no question they wanted Rice back, having determined internally his hip hadn't developed a more serious condition. But unless the Seahawks' doctors find something that suggests the injury hasn't healed properly, Rice will be a rich man with a new home by Friday night and only time will tell if the return on investment was worth the risk.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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