Sidney Rice was able to lose his crutches Monday, if only for a short time, while rehabilitating his hip injury in the pool.
That might not sound like much, but for Rice it was the first milestone in his recovery from hip surgery on Aug. 23.
"It's feeling great right now at this point and I'm going to continue doing what they tell me to do," Rice said as he stood in front of his locker without the assistance of his nearby crutches.
Rice has been working in the pool for a couple weeks, but this was the first time he was able to shed the crutches. He still uses them to move around on land, but there was a glimmer of hope in his voice as he targeted his return to football.
"I'm hoping to be back the first game I can play. Of course, I can't play until after the sixth week because of the reserve/PUP (physically unable to perform). I'm hoping to be back that following week," he said.
Because the Vikings placed him on the reserve list, Rice has to miss at least the first six weeks of the season, but because the Vikings' bye week is included in that, he could be eligible as soon as the Oct. 24 game against the Green Bay Packers.
That may be optimistic thinking, but the Vikings could use him as soon as possible. The 6-foot-4 receiver provides Brett Favre an option that no other target on the Vikings can replicate. Last year, Rice had 1,312 yards on 83 receptions (15.8-yard average) and eight touchdowns.
With him, the Vikings offense averaged 379.6 yards per game and 259.8 yards passing last year. He is the only starter missing from last year's offense, and through two games the Vikings are averaging 308.5 yards per game and 185 in the passing game. Favre also has four interceptions already after throwing only seven during the entire 2009 regular season.
But before Rice can return, there is a lot of work to be done in his rehabilitation. He isn't sure when he will be allowed to walk on land without the aid of his crutches, but he did show off the range of motion in his leg and said there isn't much pain. He has an appointment with his doctor this week and a timetable for walking without assistant could be determined then.
At some point in the future, he also has a return trip to Colorado, where he had the surgery, to get a better idea of his current condition. He said he hasn't received any sort of feedback from medical personnel there regarding past surgeries similar to his.
"I'm focused on me right now. That's the only thing," he said. "My body doesn't react the way another person's body might react, so I've just got to do what I'm told to do at this point and we'll see, see how it goes when I get back out there."
For now, he is stuck in the undesirable position of having to watch his teammates play games while he stays at home.
"It's tough," he said. "Just sitting back watching what's going on, knowing you can't contribute in any way besides talking to them and telling them what you see, not being able to be out there and contributing on the field, it's hard sitting back watching the games."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Rice targets his return
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