He still runs smooth routes, catches the ball with a quiet pop of the hands and hits the turbo button after each catch.
But that’s practice. The Seattle Seahawks would like to see No. 1 receiver Sidney Rice remain healthy so he can do that when it matters – during the entire regular season.
Rice said that he’s on pace to be ready for the opening of the regular season after undergoing two offseason shoulder surgeries.
The 25-year-old suffered a labrum tear in his right shoulder during training camp in 2011 that forced him to miss the first two games of the season. Although not fully healthy, Rice came back and gutted it out through nine games. But after suffering two concussions in the span of three games, Seattle coach Pete Carroll put Rice on the season-ending injured-reserve list in December.
Rice had his torn labrum repaired by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
While under Andrews’ care, Rice had his left shoulder examined, which had bothered him since his college days at South Carolina.
“They thought it was just a little tear in the back when they read the first MRI, but once Dr. Andrews got in there, he (saw) that it was an actual, 360 degree tear,” he said.
Rice had the torn labrum in his left shoulder repaired a month and a half later.
“A lot of slipping out and popping out of place,” Rice said. “Right now, they’re supposed to be brand new shoulders, and we’ll take it from here. Right now I’ve got to regain my strength in my shoulders and get ready for the season.”
Rice has gained 11 pounds of muscle, upping his weight to 209 pounds. Rice said he’d like to arrive at training camp at 215 pounds in order to better handle the pounding of a 16-game season.
The Seahawks are counting on Rice to alleviate some of the pressure on Marshawn Lynch and the team’s running game.
“Just him being out there as another threat outside, they’ve got to make sure that they stay over the top because when we get one-on-one coverage, that’s exactly what we want with Sidney out there,” Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said.
Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows what type of problems a healthy Rice can cause for a defense from their time together in Minnesota.
“He’s a big part of what we want to do here,” Bevell said. “His health is paramount to us. We need a No. 1 (receiver), and he’s the guy we went out and got. So it’s up to him to come back from that.”