RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Sidney Rice didn't want to be the only non-quarterback stuck wearing a red jersey during the early days of Seattle Seahawks training camp.
So on Day 2 on Sunday, when trainers and coaches weren't looking, Rice slid on his regular blue practice jersey and jogged on to the field.
"I wanted to be in the blue with the rest of the team," Rice said. "I'm not a quarterback so I don't want to wear a red jersey."
That doesn't mean Rice is cleared for full contact. Far from it, actually, as Rice continues his recovery from offseason surgery on both of his shoulders. The Seahawks intend to take it very slow with Rice during training camp and avoid all contact for now, even if the red jersey is gone.
Could that avoiding contact include all preseason games as well? Maybe, Rice said. But the focus is on being healthy for the season opener at Arizona.
"This is going to be up to them. I know they're going to protect me as much as possible," Rice said. "Preseason is important but it's not as important as the regular season. They're going to take their time and progress me along, bring me along as much as possible, and we'll see what happens during the preseason games."
The Seahawks have reason to be careful with Rice after a fragile first season in Seattle when he was never healthy. He injured one shoulder during the preseason and was completely unaware that the other was also damaged. Rice played as best he could through the two shoulder injuries until a pair of concussions - the second one suffered in Week 12 against Washington - finally landed Rice on injured reserve.
His first shoulder surgery came Jan. 3 to take care of the right shoulder. His left shoulder was repaired Feb. 16. His entire offseason was based around strengthening the area around the two joints in the hopes this is the last time the shoulders prove to be a problem. Still, it could be a while before the Seahawks put him at risk. Initially the Seahawks were going to place Rice on the physically unable to perform list for the start of training camp, but he was cleared to participate in drills Saturday morning before the first practice.
"We're just going to go through this conservatively, I guess you can say, and lengthen the time of his recovery through this camp. That's great that he's working and getting the timing worked, but we won't get him banged for a while," coach Pete Carroll said. "We'll see how that goes as we start to make progress. This is the best time for us to have our hands on him and really work him right and finish off his offseason, and I just think he's had enough that he's been through that it warrants taking our time here and not rushing him back."
Rice's health is of the utmost importance for Seattle this year because of the questions that linger with the rest of its receivers. The competition to find who will start opposite Rice, along with determining the depth of the position, is one of the few true battles the Seahawks have to solve during the next month.
Because of the NFL lockout, taking ownership of the wide receiver room never felt completely comfortable last season. Now with time around his teammates and veteran Mike Williams gone, he knows he'll need to be more outgoing. He's hoping it'll come from his play and a return to the form of 2009 - his last full season - when he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns.
"I'm the leader of this group now with Mike gone and I just want to lead by example," Rice said. "These guys know how to play football but we have to bring it every day, bring the right attitude."
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