Percy Harvin (Scott Slocum/AP)
The Vikings are waging an internal debate on how much Percy Harvin should return kicks, but it’s clear he’s their No. 1 choice … if he’s rested enough. His usage will depend on how much action he is getting on offense, which should be significant.
The Vikings enter Sunday’s game with most of their preseason questions figured out. But one lingering (and important) question that has yet to be resolved is whether Percy Harvin will return kickoffs.
In what has become a case of “he said, he said, he said,” Harvin finds himself in the middle of a debate over the importance of keeping him as the primary kick returner as well as being the top receiving threat of the offense.
If Thursday night’s opener in Green Bay was any indication, teams will continue to boom kicks deep into the end zone, reducing the number of chances teams will have to return kickoffs anyway. Harvin said he isn’t concerned with how many Nate Kaeding kicks he will get to return and said he hasn’t given the rules change much consideration – even though it potentially can diminish the game-changing role of kickoff returners.
“A lot of people ask, but I haven’t really thought about it,” Harvin said. “Everybody’s got to use that same rule, so we’re going to get out there and, wherever I catch it, I’m going to go from there.”
While Harvin didn’t want to get into specifics, he made it clear that head coach Leslie Frazier and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer are debating the point – Priefer wanting Harvin returning kicks and Frazier taking a more cautious approach. Even Harvin isn’t positive whether or not he will be returning kicks Sunday or not.
“You’ve got to ask Coach [Frazier] about that,” Harvin said. “They’re battling with each other – him and [Priefer]. I’ll keep practicing and if [Frazier] lets me get that first one, I’ll definitely be out there.”
Understandably, Priefer, in his first year as a Vikings coordinator, wants Harvin and his game-breaking skills to be part of the return game, but understands that his value to the offense may prevent him from being used on special teams and that, in the end, all he can do is make recommendations to Frazier.
“If the situation is right, we’re going to use Percy,” Priefer said. “That would be my first choice. It’s going to be a play-by-play decision between the head coach and myself. Obviously, Coach Frazier will be making that final decision, but he would be No. 1 on the depth chart if he’s rested.”
Frazier remained non-committal Thursday, saying that Harvin’s value on offense may trump the risk of injury in the return game.
“We’ve still got to discuss that,” Frazier said. “He’s one of the best kickoff returners in the league, if not the best. But he’s also one of the best slot receivers and one of the top wide receivers in the National Football League. So we’ve got to wait and see what’s best.”
While the final decision is still up in the air, Harvin said he will continue to push to get on the field and hopes the “on again, off again” decision to allow him to return kicks will be “on again” at game time.
“I’m lobbying hard,” he said. “We’ve had a little laugh with it. Every day [Frazier] changes his mind, so we’ll see at game time.”
Offensive tackle Phil Loadholt didn’t practice Thursday, but it was a family emergency causing the absence.
For the second straight day, Asher Allen was limited in practice with a foot injury.
Three Chargers were out of practice for a second straight day Thursday – wide receivers Vincent Brown (hamstring) and Patrick Crayton (ankle) and linebacker Jonas Mouton (shoulder).
The final injury reports will be released today.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.