Sidney Rice turned 27 earlier this week.
His shoulders are probably more like 40. Knees, oh, maybe 50.
But the Seattle receiver was frisky as a colt Wednesday when he returned to practice in preparation for the season opener Sunday at Carolina.
As coach Pete Carroll put it: “He certainly has fresh legs.”
The Seahawks discovered last season that Rice is a resource best used sparingly, and with a limited exhibition season and weekly workload, Rice appeared in all 16 games for only the second time in his six-season career.
He’s had problems with concussions and injuries to shoulders and a hip. But the maintenance schedule allowed Rice to be available for 50 catches, seven touchdowns and dramatic game-winning plays against New England and Chicago.
And this summer, near the start of training camp, he made a quick trip to Switzerland for injections of blood platelets, which promote healing, into his aching knee. Or maybe it was Ricola.
But it’s working.
“I noticed the difference in the first two weeks and it’s still working as we speak, so hopefully it continues to get better throughout the season,” Rice said of the treatment.
“He’s ready to go,” Carroll said Wednesday. “The guys in the training room have brought him to the point he’s ready to go; we’ll see at the end of the week how he handled the practice load, but I anticipate that he’s going to be just fine, he looks like he’s ready to go.”
And when Rice is ready to go,
he gives the Seahawks a fast, big-bodied threat at receiver.
“I’m excited to get him out there,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who also coached Rice in their days together with the Minnesota Vikings. “I asked him if we were going to get to use our new toy this week, and he lit up a little bit.”
The Seahawks had no trouble scoring during the exhibition season without Rice, but “it’s great to have Sid back out there,” fellow receiver Golden Tate said. “He’s definitely one of the leaders of this team. He’s a hard worker and his tempo is always through the roof. On top of the weapons we already had, he adds some other things, obviously, and he opens up things for everybody else.”
Rice said that even when he wasn’t involved in practice or games in the exhibition season, he has run routes with quarterback Russell Wilson, and doesn’t think timing will be a problem when he goes out with the starting unit Sunday.
The team, though, has a different feel to it than the one that went to Carolina and pulled out a narrow win in early October last season.
“That was early in the season and we didn’t really come into our own until the second half of the season,” Rice said. “I feel like we’re a well-coached team that plays hard and physical and fast, and when we line up on Sunday, the main thing will be about discipline.”
The Seahawks’ problem with penalties is a primary concern now that the games count again, he said.
But he senses positive development in the team’s collective mindset.
“They walk out that door, everybody taps that (I’m In) sign,” Rice said. “We’re all in together and we’ve got our 53-man roster set and we’re ready to roll.”
The national projections of a long playoff run, or even a Super Bowl title, carry no weight at all with the Seahawks, Rice said.
“We came in the first day and Coach (Tom) Cable put up all those preseason rankings and then took them down and tore them up and threw them in the trash,” Rice said. “So, we know where we stand and we know what’s at stake for us as players, coaches and staff.”
Healthy and rested, Rice said he enjoyed watching the Seahawks race undefeated through the exhibition season.
“They’ve done a tremendous job throughout the whole preseason making plays, and it’s been exciting watching it,” he said. “But it’s better when you’re a part of it.”firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling