RENTON, Wash. – Sidney Rice sat down to start watching film on Wednesday morning and started counting all the familiar faces and names he noticed.
It’s not 11 for 11, but there are plenty of players on Minnesota’s defense that Rice knows well.
“There are a lot of tough guys on that side of the ball,” Rice said. “Nine of 11 of their defensive starters I played with when I was there so it’s going to be fun.”
Rice is one of the few certainties the Seattle Seahawks have at wide receiver going into this week’s key home game against the Vikings, which could have long-term effects on the NFC playoff race later in the season. With Ben Obomanu on injured reserve and questions about the health of Doug Baldwin and Braylon Edwards, the Seahawks could head into Sunday’s game with just four healthy wide receivers.
Rice, Golden Tate, Charly Martin and practice squad call-up Jermaine Kearse are the only receivers expected to be fully healthy for the Vikings.
“It’s going to be pretty tough. We have a couple of guys that are down,” Rice said. “… It’s definitely going to have to be on those guys. That’s a talented smart group on that side of the ball, a lot of vets that move around very well and some of our guys that haven’t played so much it’s going to be tough for them to process all the information.”
Seattle is hopeful that Edwards and his sore knee will be able to go after being a late scratch last week against Detroit. Edwards woke up Sunday morning with his knee hurting and was made inactive at the last moment. Then Obomanu got hurt during the game.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who held the same position with Minnesota from 2006-10, adjusted by sliding a tight end into some three- and four-receiver sets to make up for the losses.
It’s a bit of the flexibility he’s tried to build within the Seahawks offense. It’s the same process he’s taking this week with the uncertainty about Baldwin and Edwards.
“We put the game plan in and we have an idea of where we want guys and how we want to use the personnel,” Bevell said. “Some of it we have to be flexible with and we’re trying to put the guys and hammer it down to where, ‘You’re going to have this play at this spot,’ but still we’re not going to know until later in the week with Braylon and with Doug how much, and if, they’ll even be available.”
Obomanu was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday after it was determined he would need to be in a cast for the next six to eight weeks with a hand/wrist injury. Carroll said while Obomanu could still remain a vital contributor on special teams, he wouldn’t be able to help much as a receiver.
“We need him to be a guy who can catch the ball for us. He could do a terrific job on special teams under those circumstances for us but that long haul with a cast on is too much to ask of him,” Carroll said. “He was the toughest guy in this program. He’s come back from injuries, he would not let this stop him but he’s just going to be hampered too much with a cast on.”
Obomanu’s injury opens an opportunity for Kearse, an undrafted free agent out of nearby Washington. Kearse left the Huskies with the second-most receptions in the school’s history, but went undrafted in April. He was signed by the Seahawks and impressed through offseason workouts and training camp enough to earn a spot on the practice squad.
Rice said Wednesday that Kearse has the best hands of any receiver in the Seahawks locker room.
For Rice, this is the first regular season game against his former team. Rice spent four seasons with the Vikings and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2009, the finest season of his career when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards. He played in just six games for the Vikings in 2010 and nine games last year for the Seahawks because of various injuries.
Rice is healthy for the first time since that 2009 season. Bevell said he can see it in the way Rice runs his routes. He leads the Seahawks in receptions and yards and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns.
“I just expect to go out and do what I do every week,” Rice said. “My teammates count on me and I’ll go out there and try and make plays as best I can.”