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Favre must adjust to new Vikes receivers with Rice, Harvin ailing

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- One of the biggest reasons Brett Favre decided to return to the Minnesota Vikings this year was his familiarity with an offense that he enjoyed being around so much in 2009.

Suddenly, in some ways, Favre feels like he's starting all over again.

The quarterback's two favorite targets -- Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin -- have struggled with ailments throughout the preseason. Rice had hip surgery Monday and likely will miss the first half of the regular season, and Harvin has hardly practiced because of recurring migraines.

"Not a lot different than last year, as far as chemistry is concerned," Favre said Wednesday. "It would have been nice to come in and go to bat with the guys that we finished with last year, but that is part of football. Every coach will say the same thing. Regardless of who is put in there, we have to play the same way."

With Favre leading the way, the Vikings changed from a run-oriented offense in the first three years under coach Brad Childress into a pass-first unit that finished second in the league in scoring.

Last season, Vikings receivers caught 207 of the 377 passes completed, nearly all of which were thrown by Favre. When Favre stepped into the huddle Sunday night in San Francisco, Rice and Harvin weren't even in the stadium, meaning the receivers responsible for 143 of last season's catches weren't around.

'Tougher' job for Favre

Brett Favre said knowing Sidney Rice was going to have hip surgery wouldn't have affected his decision to return to the Vikings, but not having his top target will make things 'tougher.' **More**

Bernard Berrian (55 catches) and Greg Lewis (eight) currently are the only healthy receivers who caught a pass from Favre in 2009.

Harvin, who practiced Wednesday for the first time since a scary collapse last week brought on by migraines, isn't certain for Saturday night's preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year quickly forged a bond with Favre last year, emerging as his security blanket on third down. Harvin missed one game in the regular season because of migraines and several practices during the playoffs as the Vikings marched to the NFC Championship Game.

"Percy's situation is kind of iffy," Favre said. "We expect big things from him, bigger than last year. He has to take care of himself first."

Rice's need for surgery surprised nearly everyone. He was injured during the NFC title game loss to the New Orleans Saints but said doctors told him his hip would heal without surgery.

Rice posted an update on his blog Wednesday, saying he tweaked the injury during minicamp in June but still hoped to avoid surgery. Doctors told him Monday that a new MRI showed "a problem that could shorten my career."

"Once the doc got in there and checked everything out, he said having the surgery was the best move I could have made, so I don't regret it now," Rice wrote. "He said it could have been much worse if I would have tried to play on it during the season. He said it could have been my last year of playing football, so I know I made the right decision."

Favre said he kept in contact with Rice, who led the Vikings with 83 catches and 1,312 yards last season, while he spent the summer deciding whether he should come back for a 20th NFL season.

"I really felt like at some point here in training camp he would be able to go," Favre said. "Obviously, that's not the case. Probably like most people, I was pretty optimistic that he would be OK."

So Brett, if you knew Sidney would be out so long, would you have come back?

"I don't know that for certain, because that, obviously, wasn't the case," Favre said. "It's hard enough at 40 to play. You take a guy out that had roughly 90-something catches and was obviously pretty productive ... but there's more guys on this team, too."

Rice said he hopes to return before the first half of the season ends. There have been theories that he didn't get the surgery because he was in the final year of his contract and hoped to sign an extension, and he addressed that issue in his blog.

"It's not my concern what people say about my contract, whatever happens, happens," Rice wrote. "If the Vikings decide to give me an extension, that's great. If not, life goes on. I'll continue to work hard and do everything I can to be successful in what I've been doing my whole life, and that's playing football."

The Vikings scrambled this week to add depth to a receiving corps that's short on experience, signing veteran free agent Javon Walker on Tuesday and trading with the Miami Dolphins for slot receiver Greg Camarillo on Wednesday.

Walker caught passes from Favre for four years in Green Bay, but he had just 41 receptions in the last three years in Denver and Oakland.

Camarillo had 105 receptions for 1,165 yards and two touchdowns over the last two seasons in Miami.

"Without Sidney, it sure makes it tougher," Favre said. "But going into the season last year, no one expected the season that Sidney was going to have. So maybe there's another guy that can step up and do that."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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