Notebook: Replacing Rice a tall order

The Vikings are trying to find a way to replace the productivity Sidney Rice provided in the passing game last year. But his 6-foot-4 frame and physical style of play isn't something that currently exists in the receiving corps. Plus, the injured cornerbacks are making progress.

Last year, Sidney Rice ended a seven-year streak of the Vikings not have a Pro Bowl wide receiver.

With Brett Favre throwing passes and Rice finally having a healthy season, Rice was the team's most productive receiver in catches (83), yards (1,312) and average (15.8). He was also the first Viking to be named to the Pro Bowl since Randy Moss in 2003.

This year, with Rice sidelined until at least the end of October following hip surgery, his absence is already being felt, especially by Favre.

"Initially not a lot of people doubled Sidney (last year)," Favre said. "He got a lot of single coverage and so as the season progressed when I saw single coverage I threw it to him. He didn't have to be open and he made that play. That's kind of how things developed. But have we replaced him yet? Will we replace him? Time will tell. It's hard to replace a guy like that, the way he plays the game."

The Vikings have been rumored to be interested in trading for San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, but he might not be available until late October as well because he is serving a three-game suspension and was placed on the reserve/did-not-report list.

The Vikings traded for Greg Camarillo, but he is more of a slot receiver, as is Percy Harvin. Rice and his 6-foot-4 frame are simply hard to replace on the outside, and the Vikings don't have a receiver as physical as he was last year.

"I've played long enough. Those guys are hard to come by. The timing last year was perfect. We hit it off right away and no one could have imagined, including myself, including Sidney, how we would gel and have the impact that we had," Favre said. "I played a long time, it's just hard to find that. Those guys are hard to come by. But when you don't have that you have to make up in other areas."

"… That remains to be seen if we can find someone to play like he did. That would be tough to do."

Rice returned to Winter Park last week after having hip surgery in Vail. Colo., but he is still on crutches and Vikings coach Brad Childress said he doesn't have a feeling when Rice might return.

"He's non-weight bearing. He's on crutches right now. I'm not feeling it yet. I'm not feeling anything yet," Childress said.


While the Vikings don't have any receivers that come close to offering the size and physicality of Rice, they do have other options to help pick up the receiver productivity.

Bernard Berrian had 48 catches for 964 yards in his first season with the Vikings, when Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson were the leading quarterbacks, but last year with Favre throwing the passes Berrian's yardage dropped to 618 yards despite having 55 catches.

"(Berrian) is a proven veteran and seems to be perfectly healthy. We knew with Sidney being out that the way the Saints played us last year – actually they changed a little bit, played us a little differently – they're not rolling to Sidney any more. Sidney is not there," Favre said. "So they paid a little more attention to Bernard. … Primarily they tried to take him away and played a lot of Cover-2, and that's why Shank caught a couple balls down the middle. So really, it all depends. There were probably some opportunities that I should have gotten the ball to Bernard. Just poor reads on my part."

Camarillo is another option to give the Vikings added productivity in the receiving department. He has proved to have great hands – he didn't drop one pass last year when he was with the Miami Dolphins.

"It makes you wonder why they traded him," Favre said. "I do think he is everything that they said he would be and then some. … I think he had one catch last week and I think four or five with me against Seattle. He runs very good routes. Seems to have great hands. Very knowledgeable of the game."

Camarillo wasn't used often, especially early, against the Saints.

While Favre clearly misses the target that Rice offers, he realizes that receiver isn't going to be in the lineup anytime soon.

"I like our guys. I said that after the game against the Saints. I do," he said. "But there's no doubt we have to get on the same page and we have to do it in a hurry."


Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook both practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but their availability for Sunday's game is still up in the air.

"What we were seeing with Cedric – and I can't predict the future – he needed to get out there and do things specific to football. He couldn't progress any more in the training area or out here doing the drills that the trainers have him do. He needed to be out here doing football-specific things and he's playing without a brace this week," Childress said. "Last week he was in a brace and this week he's got the brace off. The process that we talk about, there's kind of an evolution. He's got to have faith in all of his faculties."

Cook started practicing on a limited basis on Monday and Childress said then he though Cook was showing some effects of the surgery on his meniscus. On Wednesday, it sounded like progress was being made.

"I thought he moved around some, slowly in the beginning. I'll be interested to watch him in some of our team periods," Childress said. "He was primarily in our look squad today."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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