Rice ready for return

WR Sidney Rice is close to making his way back on the field and could give the team a needed lift in the red zone. See what Rice and offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell had to say about his return.

When Sidney Rice has been on the field, he's been a productive wide receiver for the Vikings. The key part is "when."

Last year, Rice missed three games and started only four games as he battled an ankle injury, but when he was healthy, he had two of the Vikings' four longest touchdown receptions.

This year, Rice has missed three of the last four games with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament, but the 6-foot-4, 202-pound receiver believes he's close to coming back to action.

"I'm running fine now. I came out here (Wednesday), opened it up and felt real good. (Wednesday was) the first day it felt really, really good running without bothering me so I'll definitely be ready," he said.

Rice thought he was good enough to play three weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans after missing the previous game, fresh off the knee injury. As it turned out, that might have been a mistake.

"It probably would have been best for me if I would have sat that game out, but I didn't. But everything is better now. Everything is fine and I'll definitely be out there this weekend," he said, admitting that the competitive spirit in him tried to convince the coaching staff that he was ready for the Titans game.

"I tried, but it showed on film that I wasn't ready," he said.

It seems every time reporters see Rice on the field for limited practice reps he shows few effects of the knee injury, suffered in the second week of the season. On Sunday, he was on the field again before the Lions game testing it out and not showing any noticeable signs of being limited.

"It was a last-second decision by the coaches, but I was fine with that. We came out with a win and everybody is happy. I'm just going to keep pushing as much as I can to get back out there on the field and do whatever I can to help this team going forward," he said.

"It's been close, but it just wasn't there. The coaches felt like it wasn't time for me. I'm ready to step back in whenever they put me in and get this thing rolling."

As a big target, Rice could be a good option to help the Vikings out when the offense gets inside the 20-yard line, an area in which they have struggled mightily. Minnesota is tied with the St. Louis Rams for last in the NFL in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only 20 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line. However, the Rams have only reached the red zone five times, scoring one touchdown. The Vikings have been there 15 times and come away with only three touchdowns.

"He's a big target. He's had four or five touchdowns just in his short career. He would help us down there," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Rice. "A big body. A guy that can go up and get a ball. A big frame. He can body up against some of the smaller (defensive backs). That would definitely be a big help for us."

"Hopefully it will help out a lot," Rice of his potential return on Sunday. "We've just got to execute on the things that the coaches are giving us. When they give us a play, it's our job to execute. Hopefully we can get the ball down in the red zone and get more opportunities to throw some passes and get some big runs down there."

Bevell said the Vikings' red zone woes are mostly about the mistakes they are making. On Sunday, they reached the red zone three times. On the first trip, running back Adrian Peterson converted third-and-1 with a 4-yard run before fumbling the ball away. On the second trip, they got the ball down to the 10-yard line with a 46-yard pass play to Bobby Wade. On the next snap, Ryan Cook was called for holding and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal attempt that was blocked. Their third and final possession reached the 9-yard line, but the team only needed a field goal to win.

Penalties and turnovers have been the bane of the Vikings' red zone offense.

"The Vikings have beat the Vikings quite often on offense," Bevell said. "That's what I continue to tell our offense: ‘As soon as we stop beating ourselves, the yardage will go up, the touchdowns will happen. It seems like every time you made a big play it came back with a hold, or every time you made another big play we turned it over.'"

Rice won't be able to eliminate other people's mistakes, but he could give the Vikings another option in the red zone. The team might also opt to hold him out this week and give him two more weeks to recover with the team's bye the following week, but Bevell said they won't play for the future.

"We can't play for tomorrow. We're playing for today. This is a huge game coming up. If he can play and he's ready to go, then we want him in there. We think he's close," Bevell said.

Rice agreed.

"I'm fine. I'm ready to go this week," he said.

NOTES

  • The Vikings will have a scout in attendance at Thursday's BYU-TCU game.

  • The Vikings are also scheduled to have a scout at the Florida State-North Carolina State game on Thursday night.


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