Percy Harvin (Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY)
Percy Harvin is supposed to be ready to return to the field and the Vikings will be his first opponent, no doubt making him further motivated to play and show his former team what he can still do.
Let the posturing begin.
The 2013 NFL season is beginning its closing run and, for the first time, Percy Harvin is expected to play Sunday. Ironically, the first game of his post-Vikings career will come against the team that drafted him and traded him.
The early betting lines on the Minnesota-Seattle game Sunday have the Seahawks as much 13½-point favorites, due in no small part to the expectation that Harvin is going to make his return. It doesn’t hurt that 9-1 Seattle is at home against 2-7 Minnesota, but, if ever there was a time for a player motivated to get some sweet revenge against his former team, it would be Harvin against the Vikings.
Exactly what fractured the relationship between the Vikings and Harvin is up to interpretation. It began at minicamp in 2012 when Harvin let the assembled local media know he “wasn’t happy” with his situation with the Vikings. Viking Update was able to confirm with Harvin that his objection wasn’t financially motivated. What he was doing for the Vikings on a weekly basis made him grossly underpaid – when flamingo-legged Bernard Berrian is cashing checks five times as large, there’s a problem. Harvin wanted to be more involved in the Vikings offense and special teams. For those who were in the Harvin camp, they admired the fact he wanted to do more.
For those on the other end of the spectrum, it isn’t the job of a player to critique the quarterback play. It was no secret that Harvin, who was weaned at the teat of Hall of Famer Brett Favre his first two seasons, saw a distinct drop in quality when Favre left and Christian Ponder was handed the job and his viable competition was eliminated. When Harvin’s frustration bubbled to the surface and he had a much-publicized outburst directed at head coach Leslie Frazier, it seemed like only a matter of time.
The business side of football came into play. You had a young player at the prime of his career that was unhappy with his situation. There would be no tenable solution, much in the same way Jared Allen helped punch his ticket out of Kansas City when he said he wanted out after butting heads publicly with general manager Carl Peterson.
It wasn’t personal, it was just business.
The Vikings were able to get first- and third-round picks out of Seattle and, from the business standpoint, it can be accurately contended that the Vikings were able to get Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson for the price they would have needed to pay Harvin to keep him. A two-for-one sounds like a good tradeoff from the business perspective.
But sometimes business can be personal.
Even Harvin’s harshest critics would concede that he is a rare athlete that is singlehandedly capable of changing games around from the wide receiver position. There aren’t many that fall into that category. Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Julio Jones comprise that short list, with a handful of others in the vicinity of that category. When you play against their teams, defensive coordinators have to spend extra time accounting for him on every play. Harvin is one of those types.
They don’t come around often. When they go away, it’s disheartening. When the Vikings traded Randy Moss, there was a fan outrage. But, he had worn out his welcome at Winter Park, and Oakland was willing to pony up the seventh overall pick in the draft – the same pick that, two years later, the Vikings would use on Adrian Peterson. It made sense. The fact the Vikings ran it down the organizational leg by taking Troy Williamson is on the decision-makers at the time. From the numbers perspective of value vs. cost vs. headaches, it should have been a win-win for the Vikings.
At the time, Moss’ dominant years were behind him, although once he escaped Oakland and was handed to Tom Brady to do with what he wanted, the rest was history. Harvin is still in the early stages of his career. It can be argued that he is still learning the game. At the midway point of last season, his name was being mentioned as a Most Valuable Player candidate. He’s that good.
There’s no questioning Harvin’s unique skill set is what makes him so dangerous. In a sport where the majority of games are decided by one score or less, having a game-breaker who can provide those points any time he gets his hands on the ball is a rarity. Peterson is one of those players. So was Harvin.
His Seahawks debut has been eight months in the making. It likely comes Sunday and, somehow, it seems fitting that it will come against the Vikings. If Harvin is given the opportunity to be an offensive focal point – Pete Carroll has a history of rubbing an opponent’s nose in it to teach them a lesson when he has a lead – it wouldn’t be surprising to see Harvin have a big day. When you combine talent, anger and motivation, big things could happen.
It would be appropriate for the game to be played in the Metrodome, where Harvin, in just three years, provided fans with a career’s worth of highlight film moments. But, his new fan base is likely going to see his debut Sunday as Harvin 2.0 takes its first formative steps.
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.