Sidney Rice grabbed more than just the football on an overcast Friday afternoon.
He snagged the attention of anyone at Seattle’s practice with an improbable reception that showed why there was so much fuss about his arrival.
Start with the pass, which Tarvaris Jackson zipped like a BB. Then there was Marcus Trufant’s coverage, which was better than good. Trufant was at Rice’s hip, and came over the top to make a play on the ball. And then there was the grab itself: Rice cradled the ball with one arm, using his hand to pin it against his biceps.
Jaws dropped and eyes widened, and even though this was an August practice, anyone present had just seen something special.
“He had one that might have been better (Thursday),” coach Pete Carroll said. “I think he’s just loaded with those kind of plays.”
That assumption is the reason Seattle pursued Rice so aggressively, making him one of its signature free-agent acquisitions.
Seattle has heard this story before. A few times, in fact. The Seahawks signed Nate Burleson in 2006, acquired Deion Branch later that year and in 2009 it was T.J. Houshmandzadeh whom the Seahawks landed with a big-money deal.
All those millions never produced a Pro Bowl, though. And, one year after signing Houshmandzadeh, the Seahawks paid him more than $6 million not to play for them.
Will the acquisition of Rice turn out differently?
“I wasn’t here then,” Carroll said. “I don’t know.”
Rice fits the mold of a potential No. 1 receiver, someone who stands 6 feet 4 with an incredible reach. Jim Mora, Seattle’s former coach, once referred to Rice’s “Go-go-gadget arms,” and his ability to grab anything around him is his distinguishing trait.
Rice, 24, made the Pro Bowl after the 2009 season, and he played the past four seasons in Minnesota under Darrell Bevell, now the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator.
After Rice signed, he couldn’t practice until Aug. 4, which meant by the time he took the field in pads, he had spent more than enough time standing around.
“So boring,” Rice said.
He’s quickly making up for any lost time, and not 10 minutes after his catch drew an audible gasp from fans, he made a diving catch on a low pass from Jackson, in front of safety Kam Chancellor.
And while Rice has been practicing in Seattle for only two days, there has already been a good indication this is one offseason addition who could catch on quickly.
“He’s embracing this opportunity to show who he is,” Carroll said. “How he fits in and how we can count on him. He’s not taking any time, he wants to make a statement right off the bat, and he has already done that.”