Notebook: Sidney Rice sits out, still trying to learn new position
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' receiver carousel never seems to stop spinning.
Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Greg Lewis all missed Thursday's practice, leaving only three of the six receivers on the 53-man roster -- Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and Hank Baskett -- on the field as preparations continued for Sunday's game against Buffalo.
Rice, who continues to battle through soreness and minor pain related to his August hip surgery, was held out as a precaution. Harvin fell in with another migraine headache on Wednesday, while Lewis looks like a long shot to play against the Bills because of the concussion he sustained last weekend at Washington.
Quarterback Brett Favre (ankle/neck/right shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday. But he once again will head into a game after practicing minimally with his top receivers -- including Rice, who is trying to regain his timing while also learning the fine points of the "X" position.
Rice spent most of his Pro Bowl 2009 season as the "Z" receiver, but he's been pressed into action on the other side of late because of Berrian's groin problems. In two games, Favre has thrown Rice's way 14 times but completed only four for 76 yards, with several throws way off the mark.
"It's totally different," said Rice, who has played 70 of his 106 snaps (66%) at the new spot. "You've got to learn a different position, because you've got certain play calls for the 'Z,' certain play calls for the 'X.' But it's just a matter of knowing your playbook. Study a lot. I knew most of the 'X,' but when I moved over to the 'X,' I had to study just a little bit more to make sure I had everything down."
With Berrian seemingly on his way to returning -- he practiced in full on Wednesday -- Rice's role may change again this week, leaving Favre to try to find some new people in new spots without the benefit of much on-field work.
"We just need to continue to work and continue to get those two guys together," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. I think (Favre) has a good feel for how Sidney's going to come out of routes and that type of thing. Right now, Sidney's playing a different position than he did last year as well, with some of the adjustments that we've had to make. So, I think we're still coming along with all of that."
Interim coach Leslie Frazier confirmed Harvin's absence is "migraine-related" and is hopeful his leading receiver will get some work at practice on Friday.
"He's having some episodes," Frazier said, "so we've just got to see how things go."
By unofficial count, Harvin has missed 32 full practices and parts of at least 12 others because of migraines, a death in the family, two ankle injuries, a hip injury and an allergic reaction to medication that made him collapse on the field Aug. 19.
Harvin hasn't missed a game, but Frazier said the coaching staff is "going to have a have a Plan 'B' and maybe a Plan 'C' just in case something happens with Percy or with Greg (Lewis."
Also missing from practice were left guard Steve Hutchinson (broken right thumb), end Ray Edwards (high right ankle sprain), cornerback Chris Cook (knees) and halfback Adrian Peterson, who said before practice he intends to test his sprained right ankle in practice on Friday.
Frazier said he's hopeful Hutchinson and Edwards can get on the field, too, "because we'd like to get a gauge as far as how far away they are."
Hutchinson wore a clunky-looking brace to protect the thumb as he watched and did some individual work on the sideline. If he can't play, the start would go to rookie Chris DeGeare, who made the roster on the strength of a strong training camp but has yet to play a down on offense.
DeGeare has been inactive for eight games, including six after spraining an ankle on special teams Oct. 11 against the New York Jets.
"Yeah, it definitely (was a setback), because I was active, what, two games prior to being hurt," said DeGeare, a fifth-round pick from Wake Forest who's listed at 6-foot-4 and 336 pounds. "But it's the NFL. It's football. Injuries happen. I'm fine now, though."
Six Buffalo players -- guard Eric Wood (ankle), cornerback Terrence McGee (knee), end Dwan Edwards (hamstring), linebacker Reggie Torbor (shoulder), tight end Shawn Nelson (illness) and nose tackle Torrell Troup (fibula) -- did not practice. Tackle Demetrius Bell (knee), linebacker Chris Kelsay (illness), running back C.J. Spiller (hamstring) and end Spencer Johnson (hamstring) were limited.
• Berrian and S Eric Frampton (hamstring) were full participants in practice. Asked if Berrian is over the groin injury, Frazier said, "It seems that way. He's had two good days of practice. We've got to get through (Friday). I don't anticipate a situation where Sunday he's not able to go, but you've to be prepared just in case. But so far, so good.
• Lewis suffered the concussion in the second or third quarter at Washington, Frazier said, but he apparently didn't show any signs until later. "After the game, there were some residual effects obviously," Frazier said. "Then, coming in on Monday, still wasn't able to shake things."
• Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said Washington's long kick return "wasn't a very good job of identification by our cover guys. We didn't do a very good job of moving with the ball." Murphy acknowledged DE Everson Griffen perhaps got too far inside on the long punt return that was called back in the fourth quarter, but the illegal block aided that one. "Again, two steps, one guy makes a poor decision and with that kind of game-breaking speed you get hit with it," Murphy said.
• LB Heath Farwell made the Pro Bowl last season as a special teamer. Asked if any of his guys deserve consideration this year, Murphy said, "The one guy I think is (punter) Chris Kluwe. He's punted the ball well; whether you talk about gross punt, net punt, punts inside the 20, fair catches, two touchbacks on the season -- I think if you take a look at all the categories, he's certainly punting at that type of level and has been effective for us."