It isn't easy to explain why it happens so often, but there is something about a wide receiver in his third season that tends to see that player post significantly better numbers than in seasons one or two. Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice is entering his third season and hopes to add his name to that long and expanding list.
There is a consistent trend in the NFL as it pertains to wide receivers. Whether a player is a top-echelon wideout or just a guy hanging on the roster, it typically takes until the third season until one sees a player hit his full potential. From Hall of Famers on down, the third-year scenario for a wide receiver is typically when a player reaches his full potential.
, a former second-round pick in the 2007 draft, is one of those players. Limited by injuries last season, Rice is looking for a breakout year in 2009. He said the primary objective is to stay healthy, which was a problem last season. Although he played in 13 of the team's 16 games, he was greatly limited in most of them and his production dropped markedly from his rookie year.
Rice said he had some initial concerns in the OTAs and minicamps because the knee wasn't responding as well as he had hoped, but said that has changed and he is having a pain-free training camp.
"The knee isn't bothering me," Rice said. "It's feeling really good. I'm able to run around and get things done."
Rice said he has set some goals for himself in his third season and agreed that it takes a couple of years for receivers to truly get comfortable with the NFL. The first year is typically spent making adjustments to the speed of the game. The second year is spent refining route-running and learning some of the nuances of the game. By the third season, Rice said, receivers tend to be more familiar with what defenders will try to do to them in a given formation and that information helps them improve as players.
"I do notice that a lot of times it is a receiver's third year when they start to blossom," Rice said. "Hopefully this can be my year. I'm going to do whatever it takes to stay out there on the field and see how things go."
Rice said he is looking to erase the bad memories of 2008, which held back his progress. He said that 2009 could be the year that he adds his name to the long and impressive list of receivers who have found their NFL calling in their third season.
"Last season was really frustrating," Rice said. "I couldn't do much of what I usually do because of the knee injury. But I'm feeling great now and I'm ready to show everybody what I'm capable of."
FRIDAY MORNGING PRACTICE NOTES
Friday morning's practice was the first time during the 2009 training camp that weather forced the team to practice inside at the athletic fieldhouse on the Minnesota State-Mankato campus. They made it all last year without being forced inside.
The team still went through the motions of practicing punt and kick coverage, despite the ceiling of the fieldhouse prohibiting kicking.
Special teams coach Brian Murphy said that the sight of starting linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway on the punt coverage team shouldn't come as a surprise. Murphy said that head coach Brad Childress has been a proponent of using starters on special teams if they can improve the unit. Considering what happened in punt coverage last year, when the Vikings were dead last, any improvement has to be viewed as a plus.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was not at the morning practice. He was representing the team at the funeral of former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who lost his battle with cancer last week.
NFL referees will be on hand this afternoon to show a video presentation of the points of emphasis the officiating crews will be looking at in 2009.
Despite the bad weather, there was a good crowd on hand. The bleachers that run the length of the fieldhouse were filled to capacity, as well as a standing-room-only crowd running about five deep at the north end of the fieldhouse. Security officials turned away fans starting at about 9:30 a.m.
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler looked a little out place working drills with the team's linebacker corps. Loeffler typically wears the colors of the offense (white) while all the rest of the linebackers were wearing purple – making Loeffler easy to spot.
Only two players – defensive end Brian Robison and running back Kahlil Bell – did not practice. Robison has been sidelined since Monday with a hamstring injury and Bell has been out with an ankle injury also sustained Monday.
Robison did make an appearance about 10 a.m., but never took to the practice field (or court as it were).
Some players were allowed to leave midway through practice. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams left shortly before 10 a.m., followed shortly thereafter by Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. About 10 minutes after that, E.J. Henderson left the practice facility as well.
Steve Hutchinson didn't leave the fieldhouse, but was essentially given the final hour off. He was replaced on the first-team O-line by first-year pro Chris Clark.
Tarvaris Jackson was in full practice mode Friday and showed no discernable limp from his MCL strain suffered Saturday morning.
For the most part, Sage Rosenfels took the snaps with the first-team offense and Jackson took the second-team snaps in the red zone offense.
The Vikings keep adding new wrinkles on how they line up Percy Harvin. His versatility on offense is easy to spot.
Jay Glazer of FOX Sports was a morning guest at camp. Like ESPN's Chris Mortensen earlier in the week, Glazer is doing a tour of training camps around the country. The Vikings were the sixth stop on his tour.