Sidney Rice was gone, for all of seven weeks after the Seahawks released him on the last day of February.
But the club never forgot about the veteran wide receiver, who had signed with the Seahawks as a free agent following the lockout in 2011 that erased the NFL offseason. And now Rice is back, after agreeing to contract terms late Wednesday.
Walked into VMAC to see my locker untouched.. Oh what a feelin! #homesweethome— Sidney Rice (@sidneyrice) April 17, 2014
“Obviously he’s a fantastic player,” general manager John Schneider said Thursday. “We were hoping we’d be able to get him back at a certain point.”
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A look at the players the Seahawks have signed and lost in the first five weeks of the NFL’s free-agency period, as well as their remaining free agents:
Released and re-signed
Agreed to terms or signed with other teams
Remaining unrestricted free agents
Rice, 27, originally came to Seattle as part of the package deal that also included offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who also joined the Seahawks in 2011 after stints with the Vikings. But Rice was moving into the pricy backend of the five-year contract he signed, and that played into his release.
“When you sign big contracts like that, there’s always risk at some point down the line,” Schneider said. “We just got to the point where, at the time, we weren’t able to carry that. We had a good conversation when Sidney left. He knew we wanted him back.”
Before it happened, however, Rice made a visit to the New York Jets on Wednesday. Faced with similar offers, Rice opted for the familiarity and family atmosphere provided by the Super Bowl champions.
The key with the acrobatic Rice will be getting him healthy, and keeping him healthy. He was just cleared earlier this week to resume football activities in his rehab from the knee surgery that ended his 2013 season.
Rice has just one 16-start season in his seven-year NFL career that began in 2007 when the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft. That 16-start season came in 2012, when Rice led the Seahawks in receptions (50) and receiving yards (748) shared the lead in touchdown catches (seven).
He missed the first two games in 2011 with a shoulder injury and the final five because of concussions. Last season, Rice missed the final eight regular-season games and three postseason games after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the Week 8 game against the Rams in St. Louis.
But when he’s on the field, the long-armed leaper brings a skillset few receivers in the league can match. Rice had an 83-catch, 1,312-yard, eight-TD season for the Vikings in 2009, when he also was voted to the Pro Bowl. In three seasons with the Seahawks, he has averaged 15.1 yards on 97 receptions and scored 12 touchdowns in 31 starts.
“We’ve got to keep him healthy and help him in any way we can,” Schneider said. “If that’s the case, if he’s healthy, he’s an excellent, excellent receiver.”
“Sidney is just a heart-and-soul kind of team player,” Schneider said. “The other players are just attracted to his personality and his work ethic, and obviously they know how talented he is.
“So I think everybody on the team, everybody in the building, loves him because he’s such an infectious guy.”