Percy Harvin has played just three NFL seasons, yet he is currently the most veteran Viking wide receiver on the roster. When he arrived in 2009, he was the No. 3 guy behind Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian. Since then, Rice has left via free agency, Berrian was cut and veterans Randy Moss and Greg Camarillo have come and gone – Moss being released (eventually) after butting heads with head coach Brad Childress and Camarillo not being re-signed in the offseason.
While Harvin has the most experience on the Vikings – a scant three years – he isn't the old man of the wide receiver corps. That would be Michael Jenkins. After playing seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, the drafting of Julio Jones made him expendable there. When free agency began following last year's lockout, the Falcons didn't make a push to re-sign him and he came to the Vikings.
With the younger, inexperienced players that are sure to make up the bulk of the receiver corps for the Vikings this year, Jenkins is not only looking to solidify his position as a starter, but to help train his eventual replacements. In the non-NFL real world, that isn't always the case. Being a mentor isn't written into any NFL contract. It's up to the individual to take on that role and Jenkins said he intends to pay forward what veterans on the Falcons in 2002 did for him as it pertains to helping out Vikings rookie wide receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs.
"I always try to help my young teammates, especially the wide receivers," Jenkins said. "I always tell them, if they need to something, just ask. I'm always ready to help. Guys helped me out when I first got in the league, so I feel I need to do the same and pass that knowledge along."
Given his stature as the elder statesmen of the receiver corps, Jenkins is in a position to be a de facto coach to the young receivers just dipping in the waters of the NFL. There isn't a defensive formation Jenkins hasn't seen and he knows how cornerbacks work as a group and what their strengths and weaknesses as individuals. It's something that comprises a wide receiver's résumé. Jenkins has knowledge to give and is looking to impart that wisdom.
"Our position is one that you learn as your go," Jenkins said. "If you do something extremely well, it gets noticed and defenses work to stop you from doing it. That's when you need to learn something else to do well and they try to stop that. There are little things you can do off the snap that you didn't know four or five or six years ago that you know now. If I can help these guys to improve on that by telling them what I know, it only makes our team better and only helps them along their own path in the NFL."
In time, there will be a wide receiver roster spot that comes down to Jenkins and a younger counterpart – and youth will triumph over experience. The NFL is a young man's game.
Jenkins is a veteran. He is entering his ninth NFL season. He's seen a lot in his NFL career. You can call him a lot of things, but don't call him old.
Although reminded that his 30th birthday was only a couple of weeks away, when termed the "old man" of the youthful wide receiver corps, Jenkins raised one eyebrow that is often a signal that an open hand slap may soon follow. He's aging, but he's not aged.
"The longer you're in the NFL, the more you learn," Jenkins said. "I've learned a lot over the years and it all is there for the next game. Experience is a good thing in this league."
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.