Absence of Rice partly due to expiring contract?

Thanks to Brett Favre, the absence of WR Sidney Rice from the Vikings’ practices has been pretty much overlooked through the first couple weeks of training camp.

Rice has been sidelined due to a hip injury, although the exact nature of the injury has never been revealed. Along with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, Rice has maintained that he’s targeting to return in time for the season opener against the Saints. As it stands, Rice has yet to take any practice reps and the Vikings have had little comment, offering no timetable for his return.

The vagueness of the situation led Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune to offer up a conspiracy theory: There is a growing feeling that Rice isn’t rushing back from his injury partly due to his contract situation. Rice is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract that will pay him a base salary of $550,000 this season with no escalators.

Zulgad cites NFL sources who believe the Vikings would be willing to give Rice an extension, but not at a figure he would expect after a breakout season in 2009.

So, while Favre gets the headlines, the Vikings have been without Rice, Percy Harvin (due to migraines) and, until recently, Adrian Peterson to start camp.

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