Sunday slant: Injury perception vs. reality

Sidney Rice (Andy King/AP)

Sidney Rice's revelation of a hip injury might have fans concerned. The Vikings had some minor injuries last year, but the fact is the Vikings were one of the most fortunate teams when it came to avoiding potentially serious injuries.

Just as Sidney Rice was starting to receive criticism for not participating fully in organized team activities and not attending the first week of Larry Fitzgerald Jr.'s conditioning camp, Rice's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, came to the rescue and tried to shoot down rumors of a groin injury.

"Sidney Rice does not have a groin injury and has not had surgery. He does have a lingering hip injury that he suffered in the play-offs," Rosenhaus wrote on his Twitter account.

Rice didn't show any obvious signs of a hip injury at minicamp and was one of the team's best receivers in the playoffs – catching 10 passes for a team-high 184 yards and four touchdowns in the two postseason games. In fact, Rice downplayed the injury when contacted by the Star Tribune after Rosenhaus' tweets.

"It's not bad," he said. "Just being cautious with it. I can run. I'm jogging and sprinting. I'm just not doing a lot of cutting and different things like that. The doctors feel this is the best thing."

Rosenhaus and Rice both said they don't anticipate surgery being necessary – you'd hope not after supposedly dealing with it for seven months – and Rosenhaus wrote that he was "hopeful that (Rice) will be fully healthy for the start of the season."

Rice's talent was never a question for those who saw him in the various offseason camps his first two seasons. He doesn't have the greatest speed, but he has a big body, great leaping ability and excellent hands. The problem for him early on was his inability to stay healthy. He finally did that last year and it resulted in deserved Pro Bowl honors.

But Rice is far from alone on the list of injury questions entering training camp. Several other players were limited in the offseason because of injuries sustained during the regular season or playoffs.

Steve Hutchinson had surgery on his shoulder and generally didn't participate in the teamwork portion of OTAs and minicamp, but he fully expects to be ready once training camp starts in less than three weeks.

Next to Hutchinson on the offensive line is Bryant McKinnie, who also was limited in the offseason because of plantar fasciitis. McKinnie said that was doing much better by minicamp, but between that and the oversized linemen's lingering back issues, he is far from a lock to be playing at 100 percent the whole season.

On the right side of the line, Phil Loadholt had a lingering ankle issue for much of last season and there are indications that center John Sullivan was also dealing with some injuries during the year. Just to complete the starting line, Anthony Herrera is finally feeling recovered from a shoulder injury that limited his effectiveness the last two years.

Several other players dealt with injuries on the offensive side of the ball, and the defense had a number of players working through smaller injuries. E.J. Henderson was the only player that ended up on injured reserve (Cedric Griffin would have joined Henderson if it wasn't the last game that he was injured).

It might sound like the Vikings encountered their fair share of injuries, but the statistics tell another story. In the extensive season preview of Viking Update Magazine, which will come out in a couple weeks, Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders points out the extreme injury luck the Vikings had relative to other teams.

The Vikings ranked 28th in FO's Adjusted Games Lost ranking with 22.5.

"AGL is an estimate of the probability that players would miss games based on how they are listed on the injury report. This adds the probability that even if players on the injury report do play, they won't do so at 100 percent. The Vikings had barely any injuries at several key positions—quarterback, halfback and defensive line—at least according to the injury report," Farrar writes.

"The units that were most affected—the secondary, linebackers and receivers—were not as affected as other teams. The Vikings suffered 7.2 AGL in the secondary, the highest of any unit on their team, but the league average for defensive backfields was 22.8. The Indianapolis Colts lost an amazing 35.9 AGL in their secondary—they just happened to have young players who could step up."

So while Rice's hip injury could be problematic in a career that has been riddle with injury except for last year, the Vikings were pretty fortunate in the injury department last year. That isn't likely to last, so despite all 22 starters from 2009 under contract for 2010, they will need to prepare their depth at the outset of training camp.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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