RENTON, Wash. – He’s the best basketball player Seattle will never see. At least that’s the scouting report on Sidney Rice from his hometown.
“I still, to this day, believe he probably could have played basketball at South Carolina,” said Mark Huff. Huff is the basketball coach and athletic director at Gaffney High School in South Carolina.
Last week, Seattle got its first look at what the folks in South Carolina have known for a while: Rice is something special.
“An honor and a pleasure to coach,” Huff said. “A tremendous athlete.”
Rice is 6-foot-4 with arms that go on forever and hands that seem to be equipped with a commercial-grade adhesive. The Seahawks signed him as a free agent in July and he caught eight passes in his regular-season debut last week against Arizona, becoming the one bright spot of this team’s slow start on offense.
Rice was a Pro Bowler for Minnesota in 2009, and Seattle signed him as an unrestricted free agent in July, signing him to a five-year, $41 million contract. He suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that kept him out the first two regular-season games, but last week he showed why he’s a receiver that Seattle considered a No. 1 target.
“He’s the kind of guy you can throw the ball to knowing that he’s going to make something happen with it,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Rice caught 72 passes as a sophomore at the University of South Carolina and entered the draft after scoring a school-record 23 touchdowns in just two seasons and was drafted in the second round.
“One of the most talented guys I ever coached,” said Steve Spurrier Jr., the head coach’s son who coaches receivers. “Sidney was just big. I always defined him as a guy that just had amazing range.”
Seattle spent four years and millions of dollars trying to acquire this kind of receiving talent on the open market. The Seahawks signed Nate Burleson as a free agent, traded a first-round pick to New England for the privilege of paying Deion Branch millions and paid about $14 million for what turned out to be one season’s worth of T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
All told, those three receivers played 113 games and were paid in the neighborhood of $50 million. And for all that dough, only twice did one of those three make more than eight receptions in a game.
That was a different front office, a different team and Rice gave a glimpse Sunday against Arizona that at the age of 25, he may be a very different player.
Safety Kam Chancellor is not expected to play this weekend because of a thigh bruise he suffered in the game last week that kept him out of practice this week. Chancellor and cornerback Byron Maxwell are doubtful for Sunday against Atlanta and guard Robert Gallery is out as he continues to recovery from surgery to repair an injured groin muscle. … Offensive line coach Tom Cable returned to practice Friday just four days after undergoing back surgery. Cable was released from the hospital Thursday, and he plans to coach on Sunday.