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Hip surgery could keep Vikings WR Rice out half of season

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre's job just became a whole lot tougher.

Favre and the Minnesota Vikings will play the first half of the season -- or more -- without Pro Bowl wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had hip surgery this week.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said Tuesday that Rice had the procedure in Vail, Colo., on Monday night. Childress couldn't give a specific timetable for Rice's return, but the coach said it typically takes about eight weeks before a player can even get back to practice, let alone game action.

"I would think (it will take) probably at least eight weeks before we're talking about doing anything," Childress said.

Can Rice be replaced?

With the signing of Javon Walker, the Vikings are figuring out how to overcome the loss of Sidney Rice. But the question remains: Can Rice really be replaced? **More ...**

It's a huge blow for the Vikings, who have very little depth at receiver. Percy Harvin, the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, has struggled with migraines during the preseason, and the team signed veteran Javon Walker on Tuesday to help out.

After catching just 45 passes during an injury-plagued first two seasons in Minnesota, Rice emerged as Brett Favre's go-to guy in his third season with 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. He earned his first Pro Bowl bid, though he was injured during the playoffs and didn't play in the all-star game.

Favre raved about Rice's combination of size and leaping ability, saying he felt confident throwing the ball his way even if the receiver appeared to be well covered. Favre's confidence in him allowed Rice to blossom, positioning himself as one of the best downfield threats in the NFC despite a lack of game-breaking speed.

Rice saw three specialists during the offseason to examine his injured hip and declined to have surgery, hoping the condition would heal on its own. Rice never participated in a practice during training camp, and it became apparent late last week that the injury wasn't improving fast enough for him to be ready for the Sept. 9 season opener against the New Orleans Saints.

Childress said all the specialists, along with team doctors, agreed that surgery wasn't needed during the offseason. Rice, who is in the final year of his contract for just $550,000 this season, decided something more had to be done.

"I can't feel what he's feeling," Childress said. "In the end, it's up to him whether he wanted to have that procedure or whether he could press through."

In addition to Rice's injury, Harvin has been plagued by several attacks of migraine headaches this month, the latest coming last week when he vomited on the field and needed to be taken to a hospital by ambulance. Harvin hasn't played in either of the first two games of the preseason and never knows when another bout will occur.

Harvin didn't practice Tuesday, and it's still unclear if he will be able to play Saturday night against the Seattle Seahawks, the one preseason game in which the starting offense is expected to play for a significant portion of the game.

"He's not going to practice until he finishes with the medical protocol," Childress said.

That leaves Bernard Berrian as the only healthy, established veteran receiver on the roster, so the Vikings turned to one of Favre's old teammates in hopes of filling the gaps.

Walker was a first-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002, and flourished early in his career with Favre at the helm. Walker caught 89 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2004 to become one of the top receivers in the league.

However, Walker fell out of favor in Green Bay during a messy contract dispute in the summer of 2005 that drew criticism from Favre. Walker injured his knee the next season and has been plagued by knee and ankle injuries in subsequent years with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos.

Walker, 31, said he feels "like he's 23" again and has no issues with Favre from their disagreement back in Green Bay.

"Obviously when you become an older receiver in the league, it's really, really critical for a receiver like myself to get with a veteran quarterback like Favre, somebody who knows the game and somebody who's willing to put in the time and the effort to go out and be successful," Walker said. "From a receiver's point of view, you couldn't ask for anything more."

Walker said he went to Israel to have an experimental knee surgery done in 2009. He declined to discuss specifics, but the New York Times reported in December that Dr. Anthony Galea, who was charged in May with conspiracy, smuggling, unlawful distribution of HGH and introducing the unapproved drug Actovegin into interstate commerce, directed him to go there for the procedure because it hasn't been approved in the U.S. or Canada.

"It was something that eventually I'll talk about and fill you guys in," Walker said. "That way, I can get the specifics and the terminology down right before just saying something. I'll definitely let you guys know because it's really, really something unique. It's going to be something that helps a lot of athletes in the near future."

The Vikings waived running back Ryan Moats to open a roster spot for Walker.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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