Sidney Rice says he's still pushing: 'I don't want to sit out at all'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There's no question Sidney Rice is taking a deliberate approach to his return from hip surgery, but the Minnesota Vikings' Pro Bowl receiver was unequivocal on Wednesday about his intention to get back on the field this season.
"I'm pushing to play every week," Rice told reporters before practice. "I don't want to sit out by any stretch of the imagination. I don't want to sit out at all."
The Vikings cleared Rice to practice two weeks ago and were ready to activate him for Sunday's game at Chicago. But the final call rested with Rice, who admitted on Friday his future was a "huge" factor and decided to wait at least one more week.
On Wednesday, Rice said he ruled himself out only after having "a couple of problems" in Saturday's walkthrough. He later posted a blog entry on his Web site -- title: "A Bunch of Bull" -- in which he lashed out at media speculation he might choose to shut himself down if the 3-6 Vikings keep losing without him.
"It's just all about being healthy," Rice said. "I want to be healthy. I want to have a good, long career, so I've got to protect myself as well."
Rice is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract, which pays him a base salary of $550,000 this season. Under the expired collective bargaining agreement, he could become an unrestricted free agent after this season, but a new pact might increase the qualification from four years to five or even six.
Regardless, Rice -- who first suffered the hip injury in January's NFC championship game but chose to rehabilitate before opting for surgery until late August -- knows playing poorly or suffering a setback only can hurt his value.
And while it's impossible to say how effective he can be if and when he returns this season, there remains a strong sense he'll need the balance of the season to approach his 2009 form.
"It's not a deal where you boot him out of the car and say, 'You're in,'" coach Brad Childress said. "The guy's got to be able to function and function at a high level. I'm not going to say 'pain-free,' because I'm sure that there's probably some -- I'm not his body -- but some lingering feeling, and it's for him to discern what's the pound and what's the physical soreness from practice and what's from the surgery and can he get by that to be able to play at an NFL wide receiver level."
Any help at the receiver position would be a positive for the Vikings, who released Randy Moss on Nov. 1, practiced on Wednesday without Bernard Berrian (groin) and have seen Percy Harvin (ankle) leave two of their past three games.
"It's not coercion," Childress said. "You don't want that. You don't want somebody to be compliant. You want somebody to be ready to go and excited to go and can go."
Asked if Rice seems excited, Childress said, "I do from the standpoint that I don't think he'd be out here practicing in these last couple weeks. It's real easy to malinger and hang around the training room and say, 'Hey, it's just not right.' But I don't see that from Sidney."
Because he started the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, Rice has practiced since Nov. 3 under a roster exemption that expires next Wednesday. At that point, if they haven't already, the Vikings likely would add Rice to the 53-man roster, although they also have the option of placing him on injured reserve.
Rice repeated on Wednesday his primary preoccupation is with contact, since the Vikings don't tackle in practice. Of course, the only way he'll find out if he can hold up to contact is to play -- and it remains anything but a sure bet that he'll do so this season.
"That's something we don't get a chance to practice out here, is me going to the ground," Rice said. "We don't wear pads out here, and you have to understand that I had a very complicated surgery, and it's not worth the risk by going out there earlier and not being able to protect myself."