EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- After the initial news sank in, your first thought was probably this: Why did Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice have hip surgery eight months after suffering the injury? A few of us peppered coach Brad Childress along those same lines Tuesday after practice, and here is my understanding of the organization's response:
The team originally deemed the injury as something that would heal on its own. "You basically believed that it was going to rectify itself," Childress said. "We obviously didn't see enough" to indicate immediate offseason surgery was necessary.
Athletic trainer Eric Sugarman visited Rice near his Miami home in March, Childress said, to discuss a "subsequent medical issue." Rice "didn't mention anything" about the hip, Childress said.
According to Childress, Rice didn't mention the hip again until June 10, the day before mandatory minicamp. Rice had skipped all of the voluntary portion of the team's offseason program. He participated in minicamp "but evidently was in some discomfort," Childress said. "Whether the discomfort was because of inactivity [or not], it manifested itself in the hip."
Dr. Chris Larson, a hip specialist and one of the Vikings' team doctors, consulted with a colleague on the Tennessee Titans' medical staff as well as Dr. Marc Philippon of the nationally known Steadman Clinic. According to Childress, the doctors were in agreement that surgery was not required. "Could they have done it?" Childress said. "They all would have done it. But they recommended the conservative course."
Ultimately, Childress said, Rice decided on his own to have surgery. "I can't feel what he's feeling," Childress said. "In the end, it's up to him whether he wanted to have that procedure or whether he could press through. [Reporters] saw him run out here the other day and move around [during rehabilitation]. Obviously he felt it was more of a nag to where he couldn't slough it up. He wanted to remedy it by having a procedure."
A reasonable person could interpret that timetable as an implicit indictment of Rice's apparent unwillingness to play with the associated discomfort. You could also note that Rice has been rumored to be unhappy with his contract, and wonder if the timing of his surgery wasn't related. In other words: When Rice realized the Vikings weren't going to give him an extension after his 2009 Pro Bowl year, he decided against playing in pain and/or putting himself in a situation where he couldn't produce the same statistics he did last season.
Would those interpretations be correct? I really don't know. While juicy and interesting, there is just too much gray area in this situation to draw any conclusions.
Regardless, it appears Rice will open the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He'll be forced to miss at least six weeks of the regular season, but Childress said it will be eight weeks from now before Rice can do "anything." Rice won't count against the Vikings' 53-man roster while on the PUP, and the Vikings can stash him there for as long as the first nine weeks of the season before NFL rules require them to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
It sounds as if Rice should eventually be able to play this season. Whether he should have missed any time at all is a debate we'll never settle. But it's clear Childress wanted it known that Rice made the call to have surgery.
"None of us have X-ray vision," Childress said. "You just go by what somebody tells you."
As for the rest of the Vikings' receiving corps, Childress said that Percy Harvin was having more tests Tuesday related to his migraine headaches and won't return to practice until those tests are complete. And while some of you are clamoring for quarterback Joe Webb to be moved to receiver, his originally intended position, Childress suggested Webb's learning curve would be too steep to offer any immediate help. (I agree. Webb has never played receiver at any level.)
Newcomer Javon Walker, meanwhile, practiced and is likely to see action in Saturday night's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Walker said that he has a "whole lot left" in the tank and even suggested "I feel like I'm one step up because I had a little time to rest" after three years of inaction.
On that note, we'll sign out from the Minnesota bureau after another typically wild Tuesday for the Vikings. I'll be back shortly with some discussion of the Chicago Bears' left tackle situation.