Rice Returns Anxious to Catch and Catch Up

Second-round pick Sidney Rice was back practicing with the Vikings after signing his contract and playing catch-up. See what Bobby Wade and Rice had to say about his return, and get more than a dozen practice notes.

With top-pick Adrian Peterson still missing from camp, the Vikings welcomed second-rounder Sidney Rice to the Mankato practice fields Saturday morning. Rice, who inked a four-year deal yesterday, didn't have much time to think about his contract. The wideout saw considerable repetitions in three-wide receiver sets.

"Practice was a little tough," he admitted after the morning session that lasted more than two hours. "I've got to suck it up…and be ready at three o'clock. ...

"It's tough out here. You come out here, and you might be in eight plays in a row running go routes. It's a job. You've got to do it."

But Rice, a two-time third-team All-American at South Carolina, is much happier in Mankato than he was the past few days holed up in a Twin Cities hotel hoping for a contract resolution.

"It was hard just sitting there and knowing my teammates out here (were) working and sweating and getting tired," he said. "It was kind of tough for me. …

"Sitting in the hotel waiting, I called my agent (Eric Metz) about three times every 30 minutes just trying to see if we got anything done yet. … I was anxious to get in here."

Rice, who caught 142 passes for 2,233 yards in two years at South Carolina, said he tried to keep his head in the game while away from camp.

"I had my playbook with me the whole time," he said. "I've been going over my plays, looking through stuff. Last night, I looked through the script and everything."

Rice was on the field for the first snap of receiver group work. But two plays later, he lined up in the wrong spot and had to do a half-field jog as punishment. He looked reasonably comfortable the remainder of the practice.

"They're just making sure I get everything down, Troy (Williamson) and Bobby (Wade), most of the vets," Rice said. "They're making sure I get everything down from the things I missed yesterday."

Wade, the most experienced wideout on the Vikings, is glad to have Rice on the field.

"He adds another aspect to the receiving corps that we need," Wade said. "It's exciting to have him out here today. He didn't miss too much. When he came in, he was ready to play.

"Obviously, his physical aspects, being a tall guy – a tall, fast kid – he's got to be able to jump and get balls for us (and) play big in red-zone situations."

The 6-foot-4 Rice, who grabbed 23 TD passes at South Carolina, is up for the challenge.

"I feel great about the whole opportunity," he said. "I'm excited. I'm not nervous. I know my plays. I know what I'm supposed to do. I know what the coaches expect out of me."

Other observations from the morning practice:

  • Rice realized one change from college ball early in practice. After going low to snare a pass, Rice stayed on the ground and raised the ball in the air to indicate a reception. However, unlike college, Rice could have continued the play since he wasn't touched by a defender. Coaches reminded him to "get up and run."

  • With the arrival of Rice, fellow rookie Aundrae Allison, who saw several reps as the third wideout yesterday, worked mostly with the second team.

  • Head coach Brad Childress spent nearly all of the first hour of practice working with the receivers.

  • After sitting out the Friday afternoon session with a wrap on his right thigh, starting weakside linebacker Ben Leber stayed on the sidelines this morning. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the injury is "nothing serious." According to Frazier, it's a muscle strain and Leber will probably "miss a few days." Leber called the injury "very mild" and indicated that he probably would be playing if this was the regular season.

  • Dontarrious Thomas replaced Leber with the first-team defense. During interior drills, Thomas was left tackling air after running back Chester Taylor put a sweet move on him.

  • Third-year man Dovonte Edwards and rookie Marcus McCauley spilt time as the nickel back. McCauley continued to impress with his physical play and tight coverage. He intercepted a Brooks Bollinger pass during 11-on-11 drills.

  • Rookie Brian Robison and fourth-year veteran Darrion Scott saw time as the first-team defensive ends. Robison was on the right side and Scott on the left. The Vikings appear to be rotating which ends are playing with the first-team defense during each practice.

  • In goal-line drills, veterans Kenechi Udeze, left end, and Ray Edwards, right end, worked with the first-team defense. A pre-snap jump by Udeze negated a fumble recovery by the defense.

  • At one point, the Vikings employed three tight ends with the first unit on the goal line: Jim Kleinsasser, Richard Owens and Visanthe Shiancoe. Earlier in practice. Shiancoe made a nifty one-handed reception.

  • Tarvaris Jackson didn't look too sharp during 7-on-7 drills. Patrick Body picked him off when he overthrew Shiancoe in the middle of the field. A few plays later, Jackson badly overthrew Allison on a sideline route.

  • During the second of two 11-on-11 sessions, the first-team offense went against the second-team defense and vice versa.

  • Mewelde Moore and Artose Pinner both produced nice runs during those drills.

  • Veteran safety Darren Sharper had the hit of the morning when he walloped fullback Tony Richardson on the far sideline.

  • Prior to practice, the following players took turns returning kickoffs from the JUGS machine: Moore, Wade, Allison, Troy Williamson, Jason Carter, Justin Surrency, Charles Gordon, Wendell Mathis, Todd Lowber and Chandler Williams.

  • Wide receiver Billy McMullen, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and defensive end Erasmus James, all on the physically unable to perform or non-football injury lists, continued to do conditioning work on the sideline.

  • Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf was at practice again this morning. At one point, Wilf used a few blocking pads to make a nice seat between two practice fields.

  • The bleachers were full of Vikings fans throughout the practice. A long line formed more than 30 minutes before the team's autograph zone opened.

  • Thanks to plenty of clouds, the temperature was more than tolerable for the morning session.

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