Sidney Rice to make his 2010 debut on Sunday?

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20: Sidney Rice #18 of the Minnesota Vikings against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Vikings apparently have their answer.

Just hours after numbnut Brad Childress reveled that the Vikings threatened receiver Sidney Rice with injured reserve if he didn’t play this week, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reports that Rice is “almost certain” to lace ‘em up against the Packers on Sunday.

Rice had been stalling about whether or not he would play because he becomes a free agent at the end of the year and doesn’t want to risk further injury. He’s missed the past 10 weeks after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason and if he winds up suffering another injury, it could wind up costing him millions on the open market next year.

But the Vikings need him to play now, which is where the aforementioned threat came in. They’ve been saving a spot on their 53-man roster and they’ve grown impatient wondering whether or not he’ll play. The ball has been in Rice’s court for the past two weeks and per reports, he’s looked healthy in practice.

What this means for the Vikings is simple: Brett Favre now has his deep threat back. But that doesn’t mean Rice will be effective right out of the gates. Don’t forget that he hasn’t played since Minnesota lost to New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game last year. He’s been able to practice, but obviously that’s not the same as playing in a real game. The defenders that he’ll be seeing on Sunday already have nine games under their belts and he still has to get up to game speed. It’s great for the Vikings that he’ll play, but it’s a little unrealistic to think that he’ll be the player he was last year when he hasn’t seen game action in nearly 10 months.

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Vikings’ Sidney Rice still on crutches

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17: Wide receiver Sidney Rice #18 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates while playing against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Cowboys 34-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Vikings would love to have star receiver Sidney Rice back by his target return date of Week 8, but that seems far-fetched given the latest news surrounding his injury.

According to Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Rice is still walking around on crutches following his offseason hip surgery. He’s already stated that he’ll be ready to play two weeks after he’s eligible to come off the PUP list (which is after Week 6), but again, that seems like a stretch.

Once he gets off crutches, he’ll need a couple of weeks to rehab his hip and then he still has to get into game shape. Even if he does come back in Week 8, he’s not going to be the same player he was last year and by the time he is back in shape, the Vikings could be out of the playoff hunt in the NFC.

It’s still early and there’s still plenty of time for Rice to have an impact. But Adrian Peterson and the defense has to keep the Vikings afloat until Rice can come back and help Brett Favre and the passing game. He’s sorely missed at the moment, but he’s still a ways away from playing. There are still doubts that he can have any kind of an impact at all this season.

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