Pro Bowl receiver Sidney Rice could miss the first half of the Vikings’ season — or more — after having hip surgery.
Coach Brad Childress said Tuesday it was hard to give a specific timetable for Rice’s return, but he said typically it takes about eight weeks before a player can get back to football.
It’s a huge blow for the Vikings, who have very little depth at receiver. Percy Harvin has struggled with migraines during the preseason, and the team signed veteran Javon Walker on Tuesday to help out.
After catching just 45 passes during an injury-plagued first two seasons in Minnesota, Rice emerged as Brett Favre’s go-to guy in his third season with 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight TDs. He earned his first Pro Bowl bid, though he was injured in the playoffs and did not play again.
Favre raved about Rice’s combination of size and leaping ability, saying he felt confident throwing the ball his way even if Rice appeared to be well covered. Favre’s confidence in him allowed Rice to blossom, positioning himself as one of the best downfield threats in the NFC despite a lack of game-breaking speed.
He saw three specialists in the offseason to examine his injured hip and declined to have surgery, hoping the condition would heal on its own. Rice never participated in a practice during training camp, and it became apparent late last week that the injury was not improving fast enough for him to be ready for the season opener against New Orleans on Sept. 9.
He had surgery at a clinic in Vail, Colo., on Monday, which was first reported by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.
Suddenly, Favre’s 20th season in the NFL got a whole lot tougher.
In addition to Rice’s injury, Harvin has been plagued by several attacks of migraine headaches this month, the latest coming last week when he vomited on the field and needed to be taken to a hospital by ambulance. He hasn’t played in either of the first two games of the preseason and never knows when another bout will occur.
Harvin did not practice Tuesday and it is still unclear if he will be able to play Saturday night against Seattle, the one game of the preseason where the starting offense is expected to play for a significant portion of the game.
With Bernard Berrian the only healthy, established veteran receiver on the roster, the Vikings turned to one of Favre’s old teammates in hopes of filling the gaps.
Walker was a first-round draft pick of the Packers in 2002, and flourished early in his career with Favre at the helm. He caught 89 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004 to become one of the top receivers in the league.
But Walker fell out of favor in Green Bay during a messy contract dispute in the summer of 2005 that drew criticism from Favre. He injured his knee the following season and has been plagued by knee and ankle injuries in subsequent years with the Raiders and Broncos.
The Vikings waived Ryan Moats to make room for Walker.