Percy Harvin (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
The Vikings welcomed the return of rookie receiver Percy Harvin after missing more than a week. Sidney Rice also has extra motivation to return from illness to play at Bank of America Stadium, which is near his hometown. Plus, a look at the fight for field position and more injury updates.
After more than a week without receiver Percy Harvin practicing or playing, the Vikings got their electric rookie back on the field Friday.
Harvin, who has dealt with migraine headaches since childhood, wasn’t at practice all of last week and didn’t attend the team’s game last Sunday at the Metrodome against the Cincinnati Bengals. He also missed two of the most important practices this week on Wednesday and Thursday as he tried to recover and the team continued to search for solutions to his migraines.
His return on Friday, while it was only on a limited basis, could signal that he will be available Sunday night when the Vikings play at the Carolina Panthers. Officially, he was listed as questionable, meaning there is a 50-50 chance of him playing.
“It’s debilitating. It’s not like he can stand on the side and converse. He has to shut down,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said on Wednesday when Harvin was still out.
“He’s been having them for a good period of time. It’s important for us to get some kind of baseline if we can, doctor-wise, and yet still know that they are fairly unpredictable. We as coaches, the controlling types, would like to be able to control those things, but that is something beyond my control. I’m maturing too in the things that I can’t control and can control.”
The Vikings entered that Cincinnati game last week with Harvin as one of the league’s top third-down receivers. They still converted an impressive 57 percent of their third downs without him, but there is no doubt that quarterback Brett Favre has confidence in Harvin’s abilities.
“Percy obviously is a dynamic player and I think threatens the defense in a way only a few guys in the slot position can do,” Favre said. “He’s still light years away from being as good as I think he’s going to be, but he is pretty darn good in the process. There’s no doubt it’s just not the same, but I don’t think we really shifted gears in the plays we ran.”
The Vikings also got the NFC’s receiving yardage leader back on their sidelines Friday when Sidney Rice returned to Winter Park, although he didn’t practice. He wasn’t at Thursday’s practice because of illness.
Rice is listed as questionable, but he has extra motivation to be sure he plays in that game.
“This Sunday night at Carolina will be my first time playing back home since I’ve been in the NFL,” Rice wrote on his blog at sidneyrice18.com. “Well it’s not exactly home but it’s about 25 minutes from Gaffney, South Carolina, where I grew up. I have to get about 70 tickets for this game. And you have to pay for all of them. At home you get two free tickets to every game, but if you want tickets on the road you have to pay for them yourself.”
“…A lot of people have been sending me texts trying to get tickets and a lot of people have been texting just to let me know how proud they are of me.”
Rice now has 67 catches for an NFC-leading 1,075 yards, easily career highs for him. His previous best was his rookie season in 2007, when he had 31 catches for 396 yards. So what is the difference between him then and now?
“Just his confidence level, being out there and having opportunities to make a play on the ball,” said his 2007 draft classmate Adrian Peterson.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell expanded a bit.
“I think there are two things that I would point to. Number one is what Sidney did in the offseason to get himself right. We know that last year he was banged up a bunch. So he was able to get himself right physically. The guy is a tireless worker,” Bevell said. “… Then I think Brett coming in here, I just think it gave him confidence. Sidney had confidence in his abilities, but Brett just took that confidence to another level and really showed confidence in him. Sidney obviously believed that he was a good player, but when your quarterback puts that confidence on you as well, I think that really took his game to another level.”
FIGHTING FOR FIELD POSITION
The Vikings continue to preach the one-game-at-a-time mantra, but the players know where they stand. If they beat Carolina, they successfully defend their NFC North crown. If they win and Philadelphia loses, the Vikings secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“Every game is important and we want to go 14-2, ride this out, man. Hopefully we get that first-round bye. Even though I am speaking a little prematurely, we do want that first-round bye,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.
“The home team always has the advantage. It’s their field. … As long as we play our game, Vikings football, I feel like whoever is playing against us is going to have to really match out intensity. We set the tone. We don’t want to be chasing or far behind. We want to really set the tempo.”
In addition to Harvin and Rice, DE Ray Edwards (back) is also questionable. Harvin and Edwards were limited in practice while Rice did not practice Friday. The Vikings listed nine players as probable, meaning there is a virtual certainty they will play. They are WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring), CB Cedric Griffin (neck), G Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), S Tyrell Johnson (concussion), T Phil Loadholt (shoulder), CB Karl Paymah (knee/ankle), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (ribs/foot), C John Sullivan (concussion) and CB Antoine Winfield (foot).
Panthers QB Jake Delhomme was ruled out of Sunday’s game because of a finger injury, clearing the way for Matt Moore to make his third consecutive start. CB Richard Marshall (ankle) and RB Tyrell Sutton (hamstring) are questionable. DE Tyler Brayton (concussion), LB Na’il Diggs (ribs), WR Muhsin Muhammed (knee) and RB Jonathan Stewart (toe) are probable.
The front page of VikingUpdate.com got an addition this week. About halfway down the right side of the page, a video module has been added. That will feature team-specific videos with footage from press conferences and even Jared Allen’s appearances on FoxSports.com’s “AfterParty,” a web-only show hosted by Jay Glazer.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.