There are few players that have the impact on a game as Percy Harvin does. He was drafted for his versatility and has shown the ability to make plays as a receiver, a runner and a kick returner.
When the Vikings meet the Packers in a NFC North showdown on Sunday night, Harvin may have yet another role to play for the Vikings – punt returner.
Harvin, who was added to the injury report with tightness in his hamstring that limited his practice participation Thursday, said that punt returns are something he has worked on for years at Florida during practice, even though he wasn't used much in game situations in that role because of his crucial contributions to the offense.
He said that he is prepared to help the team on punt returns, but it waiting from the green light from the coaching staff to add that component to his impressive multi-faceted contributions to the team.
"We've been working on it," Harvin said. "Whenever Coach (Childress) calls me to be back there, (I will). I think he's better suited to answer that question."
Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy said the team is waiting for the right time to implement Harvin on punt returns.
"It'll come eventually. I don't think it's him, it'll be the right place and the right time for him to be back returning punts," Murphy said.
Asked if the skill set is different on returning punts than kickoffs, Harvin said there are significant differences.
"It's a little higher," Harvin said of returning punts as opposed to kickoffs. "Guys are coming down and you're trying to judge the ball at the same time. It can get a little difficult judging how the ball is going to come down in the air, but I'm pretty much comfortable with it."
While punt returning would be something new to Harvin's offensive arsenal, his bread and butter is still being a slot receiver. He told Viking Update that he was ecstatic about the trade that brought Randy Moss back to the Vikings, primarily because it allows him to move back into the slot, where he is his most dangerous.
The addition of Moss will not only benefit Harvin, but the biggest benefit could be to Adrian Peterson, where defenses will likely have to commit a safety to provide help over the top on deep passes that could go to Moss – a safety that, prior to his arrival, has been dedicated to helping stop Peterson.
"It should open up our running game," Harvin said. "A lot of teams won't be able to put eight or nine guys in the box. I think our offense is still adjusting to it, but I think we found a little rhythm in the second halves of both games. Hopefully we can come out and put it together in the first half and have a better outcome."
He said he is also interested in seeing how the Packers approach the new-look Vikings. Green Bay is known for allowing cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris to go one-on-one with receivers in bump-and-run coverage. Both of them have routinely been left on an island and told to win their individual matchups with receivers, something that may be more difficult with the Vikings, especially with Moss running deep down the sidelines.
Harvin said he doesn't expect the Packers to revamp their defensive philosophy with Moss on the opposing sideline, but said there aren't many teams that are willing to take that risk and the Vikings are looking forward to the Packers trying it.
"Teams playing us now, most teams won't be willing to bump with Moss on the outside," Harvin said. "We are interested to see how they're going to play us. We'll be able to tell in the first quarter."
Harvin said the Vikings are looking forward to Sunday's matchup. This time around, it won't be about Favre coming back to Lambeau Field. It will be about the Vikings trying to dig themselves out of their early-season hole. The Packers are just the next team on the schedule, which should make this game more about getting a win than getting a win over a division rival.
"It's another game for us to keep our momentum going," Harvin said. "We're all prepared for the game. We know what it's about. A lot of us have played there or had them play here. We're preparing for the game and not get caught up against the hype."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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