Vikes WR Sidney Rice says it’s not about the money

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EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. (AP) - Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice bristled at the notion that he’s taking his time to come back from hip surgery, saying Wednesday he wants nothing more than to play against the Packers this weekend.

Rice had the procedure in late August and hasn’t played this season. He returned to practice two weeks ago, and the Vikings have one week left to move him from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster before he’ll be ineligible to play at all this year.

Rice has full clearance from the team’s medical staff, and the Vikings have put the final decision about when he’s ready in his Rice’s hands.

Coming off a Pro Bowl season with an expiring contract for a team whose season is on the brink of implosion, Rice might not have much to gain by playing in 2010. But he spoke out Wednesday against speculation that he’s more concerned about his value on the market as a soon-to-be restricted free agent.

“I’ve not spoken about money _ not one time _ since I’ve been here,” said Rice, a second-round draft pick in 2007. “This is all about being healthy. I want to be healthy. I want to have a good, long career, so I have to protect myself as well.”

After addressing reporters in the locker room, Rice posted an entry on his blog at sidneyrice18.com titled “A Bunch of Bull” in which he adamantly denied a disinterest in playing this season for self-protection reasons.

“I wouldn’t dare do the fans or my teammates like that,” Rice wrote.

He also reiterated he plans to play on Sunday against Green Bay and defended his decision to sit out last week at Chicago.

“I went pretty hard in practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and I was feeling significant discomfort Friday and Saturday when I woke up,” Rice wrote. “So I decided not to go out there and risk getting hurt or, in my eyes, hurting the team by playing before I was ready and taking away from the team by not getting healthy.”

Neither the Vikings nor Rice have described the surgery or the injury in detail, but Rice said it was “very serious.” He said he’s been trying his best to get back on the field.

“I want to be playing. I want to be out there with my teammates, having fun with those guys,” Rice said. “It doesn’t always happen like that. But know that I am pushing to be out there.”

When asked if he’s confident Rice will play this year, coach Brad Childress said he didn’t know. He said Rice is not being coerced to return sooner than he’s ready.

“It’s not a deal where you boot him out of the car and say, ‘You’re in.’ The guy’s got to be able to function and function at a high level,” Childress said.

Asked whether he thought Rice was excited to come back, Childress said yes.

“I do from the standpoint that I don’t think he’d be out here practicing these last couple weeks,” the coach said. “It’s really easy to malinger and hang around the training room and say, ‘Hey, it’s just not right.’ I don’t see that from Sidney.”

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