It would seem almost impossible for Percy Harvin to fly under the radar, but with so much attention being paid to the return of Adrian Peterson and the maturation of Christian Ponder, there hasn't been a whole lot of attention paid to Harvin this preseason.
Expect that to change, since few players are as important to an offense as Harvin has become for the Vikings and expects to be moving forward. Last year, Harvin had 87 receptions – more than twice as many as anyone else on the team – ran the ball 52 times and returned kicks. He has become as versatile a weapon as he was in college at Florida and has come to enjoy his role with the team and the attention that he draws from opposing players.
"It's kind of fun to be the kind of guy who can go anywhere," Harvin said. "Especially when you're game planning, teams don't know where I'm going to be at. I kind of take pride in that and definitely take pride in learning different positions and being able to play them across the board."
Earlier this year, Harvin was upset with the organization and let it be known to the beat writers of the team that he wasn't happy. Many assumed it was a ploy to get a lucrative contract extension – an assumption Harvin vehemently denied. It may have been the result of a limited offense the Vikings had in place. Harvin was able to find weaknesses in defenses and would tell receivers George Stewart and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave about what he was seeing, but, with Ponder inserted in the lineup after Donovan McNabb failed to excel in Musgrave's offense the Vikings playbook was minimized while Ponder learned the offense. Harvin's suggestions for plays couldn't always be implemented.
"It was (happening) constantly last year and I think that was the frustration with part of the offense," Harvin said. "We saw some things that we hadn't quite got to with the timing (with Ponder) of putting plays in our offense. There were times that we wanted to get to certain plays or audibles that we just didn't feel comfortable last year doing."
That has changed with a full offseason of Ponder learning the offense. Another source of frustration for Harvin was his removal as the full-time kickoff returner. He is listed as the primary kick returner on the team's depth chart and, until told otherwise, expects to resume that role as well this year.
"As far as I know, I'm the kick returner," Harvin said. "I'll go out there every time unless they pull me back."
So what can Harvin do to improve on career highs in receptions, receiving yards, rushes, rushing yards and touchdowns that he had in 2011? According to Harvin, plenty. He expects his impressive 2011 numbers to be benchmarks on which he can improve upon.
"I studied myself even more this offseason," Harvin said. "Hopefully all these years have just been stepping stones for me. I approach everything the same. Anything this team needs, I'm there."
The only thing that has consistently stopped Harvin in his first three seasons was himself. A migraine sufferer since middle school, Harvin has battled with excruciating headaches for most of his life and has missed many practices and even a game because of the nagging pain. But, as he heads into the 2012 season, he hasn't had a migraine in months and is hoping that the medical treatment he has received will keep them away for a long time.
"This is probably my best (offseason) to date," Harvin said. "I haven't missed a practice (because of migraines or injury). In camp I didn't miss anything. For me, that's a tremendous accomplishment just to be healthy and fresh from the start. My body is feeling great. I'm just ready to go and see how things work out."
While the attention on the offense over the last month since the start of training camp has centered largely on players like Peterson, Ponder and rookie Matt Kalil, now that the regular season is at hand, it may be Harvin who becomes the story.
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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