Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has rolled the dice a bit by installing rookie quarterback Russell Wilson as his Week 1 starter, and if Wilson is going to have the same success in the regular season that he has in games that don't count, Wilson will need all the Seahawks receiving options at his disposal.
Luckily for Wilson and the Seahawks, it looks more and more like that will be the case when they travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on September 9, as it appears that wide receiver Sidney Rice will be good to go for the regular season.
The 25-year-old, who missed seven games last year in his first season in Seattle, had surgery on both shoulders in the offseason, leading to questions about his future with the team and motivating the Seahawks to bring in a carousel of veteran wideouts, including Antonio Bryant and Terrell Owens, both of whom who have since been released.
However, Carroll recently relayed to Lix Mathews of ESPN Radio in Seattle that the sixth-year pro is ahead of schedule in his rehab after making his preseason debut in last week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It really guided a lot of our thinking in the decisions that we made ... with the receiver position," Carroll said. "We weren't sure, you know? But he's proven to us that he's ready to go. "He was fast and confident," Carroll said. "He wanted to play more. He didn't want to come off of the field, which was great. He needed to get out on the field and you can see it in warmups that he was fired up."
Caroll wasn't the only person glad to see Rice back on the playing field, as he too was excited to finally get back in action according to Mathews. "I felt good," Rice said. "It was good to be out there with my teammates running around, falling on the ground, taking hits and getting back up and running to the huddle. It felt good. It felt great to be back out there."
Much like with the rookie quarterback that's taken the exhibition season by storm, it's important not to get caught up in the hype and positive reports about Rice's rehab. After all, this is a player who has missed 17 games over the past two seasons and had 11 anchors inserted into each of his shoulders.
However, Rice is also still young and a player who topped 80 passes and 1,300 receiving yards in 2009. If healthy, not only is he easily the Seahawks' best wideout, but he also provides the team with a vertical threat that will do everything from open up the underneath passing game to preventing opposing defenses from stacking the box against running back Marshawn Lynch.
Both those factors are going to be of great benefit to Wilson's development, and if the Seahawks are going to fulfill the prediction made by Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to ESPN's Mike Sando and win the NFC West in 2012, then they need Sidney Rice on the field and not the sidelines.