Going into the season Sidney “Sticky” Rice was expected to be a major force. He experienced a breakthrough season in 2009 making the Pro Bowl while hitting career highs in receptions (83), yards (1312) and touchdowns (8) showing dynamic chemistry with Brett Favre. Some say the Ole Gunslinger deserves the credit for making Rice a dynamic downfield threat, others say Larry Fitzgerald deserves the credit for allowing Sticky to work out with him over the offseason, some say Sticky deserves the credit on his own. Any way you slice it, he became a top flight WR on a team that already had its share of offensive weapons.
Then as the season drew closer-and-closer something became quite peculiar about Sticky. He went didn’t post anything on his Twitter account and skipped Fitzgerald’s offseason training camp. Then a mere two weeks before training camp was set to begin Sticky’s agent Drew Rosenhaus tweeted that his client has a lingering hip injury that was suffered during the NFC Championship, but is “hopeful” that Sticky will be healthy for the start of the season.
Well Drew, “hopeful” is not what us Vikings fans were looking for. Lingering injuries suffered months ago don’t exactly heal in a week or twos time. And this was a rematch versus the Saints! It became even more frightful learning Sticky was unable to run longer sprints and do standard cuts. Even the NFL Network’s Charles Davis suggested that the Vikings should have pursued Terrell Owens. What, what? It’s that bad? Owens reunited with Chilly. Time to push the panic button.
We all know what later happened. Sticky was unable to play at all during training camp. He also missed the entire preseason until eventually deciding to have hip surgery in late August with an expected recovery time of 8 weeks. And the results without him were disastrous. Favre (who also skipped camp… like we needed to be reminded) was unable to establish chemistry with Bernard Berrian as his #1 WR, Percy Harvin (who also missed nearly all of camp) struggled with migraines and Visanthe Shiancoe (who actually played well in spite) commanded double teams in the red zone with Favre’s favorite target out.
Sticky did eventually come back in week 11 versus Green Bay after being given really no timetable from Brad Childress and then eventually threatening him to play or risk going on injured reserve. For the 6 games he did play only 1 versus Buffalo was reminiscent of the ’09 version of Sticky catching five balls for 105 yards and two scores. In that matchup, he constantly split double teams and had debatably the prettiest reception of the season in a 31-yard touchdown from lollipop like pass from Tarvaris Jackson. The other games he was not a difference maker, although the Vikings playoff hopes were then dim and the quarterback play was nothing inspiring either.
It’s disappointing to think that the concussion sustained from Asante Samuel could be Sticky’s last play wearing purple. I can’t venture to guess how long this impending lockout will last and what the new CBA will look like. Assuming the franchise tag is still available, Sticky is likely to get slapped with one. If not, rest assured agent Drew Rosenhaus will be showcasing the 2009 season for his client, who is only 24, in attempts to make him one of the games highest paid wide receivers to whomever will cut the check.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig