Despite leading the NFL in receptions through three weeks and being the clear focal point of the Minnesota Vikings offense, Percy Harvin said he has never been considered the No. 1 receiver … even on his team.
"Since I've been in high school I've never been considered the No. 1 receiver on my team. That doesn't bother me at all, not one bit," Harvin said. "I feel like I'm a game-changer. Every time I get the ball in my hands I try to make a play. As long as I'm doing that at a high level, you can call me a third or fourth receiver, it doesn't matter."
Not in the Vikings offense, and especially not in the first three weeks. With deep threat Jerome Simpson serving a three-game suspension to start the season, the offense – especially the passing game – placed a heavy emphasis on Harvin.
Last year, Harvin played in only 58 percent of the team's offensive snaps. This year, he has played in 74 percent of the offensive snaps and been targeted 15 times more than the team's next most popular receiver, tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The coaching staff's commitment to Harvin may have changed after a conversation with Vikings brass this summer, about the same time that Harvin requested a trade.
"I think it was just the identity of our offense. Just not only me, just guys knowing exactly what the coaches are asking of them on a week to week basis – not playing one position one week and come in and not totally having a grasp on what they're asking for the next week," Harvin said. "So I think (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave has done a great job – I said it all offseason – of putting Rudolph in great situations. We got a package for Jerome, which you've seen, where we'll take shots downfield. So everybody, I think, knows their role, knows what the coaches expect them to do. Now you can just sit back and try to do it at the highest level you can."
No one's role has been more versatile than Harvin's. In addition to having the NFL's longest kickoff return of the season, a 105-yarder for a touchdown to open Sunday's 20-13 win over the Detroit Lions and leading the league with a 38.5-yard average on kick returns, he is now third in the league with 30 receptions for 299 yards, seven of those on third down.
It was clear the Lions were making Harvin the focus of their defense Sunday. Harvin said it was the most bracket coverage he has seen all season, and linebacker Chad Greenway reiterated his high praise for Harvin on Monday.
"He's unbelievable. He can just beat you in so many different ways," Greenway said. "That's why if there's somebody that's more productive for their team in the NFL I'd love to see him. He can hurt you in many ways, can carry the team with receptions, can run the football out of the backfield as good as anybody. We haven't found much that kid can't do so we continue to feed him the ball as much as much as he can handle it, I'm hoping."
It's hard to imagine the Vikings putting much more on his play sheet. He opened Sunday's game with a kickoff return for a touchdown before the Lions began kicking it short to keep it out of his hands. He was also the focus of Detroit's defense.
Still, in addition to leading the Vikings with targets, receptions and kickoff returns, Harvin also has 11 rushes for 54 yards, including taking a direct snap in Detroit.
No matter how many ways he has been used on offense, he is the team's leading receiver with double the receptions of anyone else. Still, he says he has never been considered the No. 1 receiver on his team – even in high school, it was Damon McDaniel, who went to Florida State – and Harvin seems fine with observers' tendencies to give that label to the bigger receivers in today's game.
"The style, they like the 6-foot-2 guys, 6-foot-3, the bigger guys. But there are a lot of No. 1 receivers who are the small guys – you know, DeSean Jackson, people like that. That's how people view it."
"I've never been the No. 1 receiver. Going to Florida I wasn't No. 1 and here," Harvin said. "It's all what you want to call it – first, second, third, slot, whatever."
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.
Harvin's not a No. 1? On his team?
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