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 as if he's starting all over again.
His two favorite targets — Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin — have struggled with ailments throughout the preseason. Rice had hip surgery on Monday and likely will miss the first half of the regular season while 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.
Vikings receivers caught 207 of the 377 passes completed last season, nearly all of which were thrown by Favre. When Favre stepped into the huddle in San Francisco on Sunday night, Rice and Harvin were not even in the stadium, meaning 143 of last season's receptions weren't around.
Harvin did practice on Wednesday for the first time since a scary collapse last week brought on by migraines. He was taken from the field in an ambulance, spent the night in the hospital and did not make the trip to San Francisco. His availability for Saturday night's game against Seattle is in question.
The reigning rookie of the year forged a bond quickly 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 in the playoffs as the Vikings marched to the NFC title 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."
While Harvin dealt with the headaches last year, Rice's need for surgery came as a surprise to nearly everyone. He was injured in the NFC title game loss to New Orleans, but said that doctors told him his hip would heal without surgery.
Rice posted an update on his blog on Wednesday, saying that he tweaked the injury during minicamp in June but still hoped to avoid surgery. But doctors told him on 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 team with 83 catches and 1,312 yards, 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 Rice 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 be back before the first half of the season ends. There have been theories that he did not get the surgery because he was in the final year of his contract and was hoping to sign an extension, and Rice 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 group short on experience, signing veteran free agent Javon Walker on Tuesday and trading with the Dolphins for slot receiver Greg Camarillo on Wednesday.
Walker caught passes from Favre for four years in Green Bay, but he has just 41 receptions in the past three years combined in Denver and Oakland.
Camarillo has 105 receptions for 1,165 yards and two touchdowns over the past two years 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."