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Published September 13, 2010, 11:38 AM

Rice begins rehab work without restrictions

EDN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Sidney Rice said he watched the Vikings' 14-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the season opener Thursday night at his home with a few friends.

By: Chip Scoggins, Associated Press

Unable to play because of a hip injury, the Pro Bowl wide receiver was relegated to being a spectator.

"It's real tough," he said. "I want to be out there with my teammates. It's a great group of guys and I feel like I could have helped them out a little bit out there. It's tough not being out there."

Rice's life now revolves around rehabbing his right hip every day at Winter Park, unsure of when he will be back on the field. Rice spoke to Twin Cities reporters for the first time Monday since he had surgery in Colorado late in the preseason.

Rice is still on crutches but he said Monday marked the first day he was able to do rehab work without restrictions.

"I'm in here every day, sometimes twice a day," Rice said. "It's basically doing the same stuff. Feeling a lot better every day."

Rice wrote on his blog last month that doctors at the Steadman Clinic in Vail told him "it could have been my last year of playing football" if he played without surgery. Though the exact nature of his injury remains unknown, Rice said an MRI late in training camp showed "significant changes" from previous ones.

The team placed Rice on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he must miss the first six weeks. Rice's recovery is expected to take longer than that, but he said he hasn't targeted an exact return date.

"I can't play until after the sixth game, so I at least know it will be that long," he said. "Right now I'm just focused on getting in here every morning and doing my rehab and doing what it takes to get back out there on the field."

Rice said he doesn't feel any post-surgery soreness in his hip. He said he can walk without the aid of crutches, but his doctors want him to use them for a few more weeks. Rice admitted it's "still real early" in the process.

"I can move my leg, everything like that," he said. "It's just staying on these things (crutches) right here for a little while. I had to keep the pressure off it and let everything heal up on the inside. I'll be on these for a couple more weeks and hopefully after that, it's just as soon as my muscles can start back to firing, I'll be back out there on the field."

His absence was glaring in the season opener. The Vikings wide receiver corps combined for only four catches for 56 yards. Rice said it's difficult knowing he can't help, but said he's trying to stay positive.

"That's the only thing I can do," he said. "Support my teammates and try to help them out in any way possible that I can without being out there on the field, answering any questions that they have. Right now, staying positive, staying focused on what I need to do to get back out there on the field."

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(c) 2010, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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