All signs point to Percy Harvin being set to make a rare return.
The Seattle Seahawks receiver and returner practiced fully Thursday for the first time since hip surgery on Aug. 1. If he is back in action Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, he would become just the second Pro Bowl player to make his debut against his former team after being traded since 1994 (Darrelle Revis was the other in Week 1 vs. the Jets).
"Any time a player is probable you think he is going to play. You go in with that mindset. Whether he plays or not, it still comes down to playing Viking ball," CB Josh Robinson said.
"He's a tough guy. He's strong and also very fast, elusive. He's a guy that has a lot of talent, one of the best I ever faced. I look forward to the challenge."
Last year with the Vikings, Harvin was being discussed as a potential NFL MVP candidate by midseason. Through eight games, he had been targeted 79 times and had 60 catches for 667 yards and three touchdowns. He added 18 rushes for 72 yards and a touchdown and was the best kickoff returner in the NFL, averaging 35 yards per return.
His last game, ironically, came against the Seattle Seahawks. He entered the game with a hamstring injury that limited him but was adamant about returning to action. When he did, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
"He's always fired up to play. He's a very, very competitive guy. We saw that every Sunday here so I wouldn't expect anything less," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
"I don't know everything about the injury he's coming back from, but I know when he's on the field he plays hard. He gives you everything he has every snap, so I don't think he'll change that way. I'm not sure how far along he is in his rehab other than the fact that they did activate him on the 53. When he's on the field he's always played hard. I wouldn't expect anything different."
Harvin's versatility is obvious to Vikings fans, but he and Gale Sayers are the only players in NFL history with 20 or more touchdowns from scrimmage and five or more touchdowns on kickoff returns in a player's first four seasons.
"Like a lot of real good players, he's very competitive. He wants to be the best every time he walks on the field and I enjoyed working with him," Frazier said. "There were many days we would sit down and talk about a lot of thing. We didn't always see eye to eye on those things. But I liked his competitive nature, liked what he gave our football team. He's an excellent football player."
The Seahawks have already come to appreciate Harvin's competitiveness. He went through some of their offseason workouts before having surgery on Aug. 1 that delayed the start to his Seahawks career.
"He's a great guy, wants to compete and play at the highest level and he wants to do the best that he can. I just love being around him," said Seattle QB Russell Wilson. "He's a guy that wants to make the big play and I trust him in that. We love him here. We're excited about having him. We're excited about hopefully having him out there this weekend. That's going to be fun."
Wilson didn't expect it to be much of a challenge to get Harvin involved in the offense. The receiver has been attending meetings and knows the offense employed by coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was the coordinator with the Vikings before Frazier didn't renew his contract.
Wilson admitted he wants to get Harvin the ball as much as he can but said he won't change his reads in order to accomplish that.
Despite a few incidents of Harvin blowups on the sidelines and in practices – including a weight being thrown at former coach Brad Childress – Frazier said Harvin left Minnesota on good terms. It was becoming clearer with each passing month that things were reaching the point of no return with Harvin, but Frazier said he texted Harvin after he was traded to the Seahawks and wished him good luck.
The challenge now for the Vikings is trying to stop Harvin.
They don't have any film of him in the Seattle's offense, but they know Harvin and Bevell. Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said they haven't looked at too much film from the Harvin-Bevell days in Minnesota. Instead, they are looking more at the Seahawks' current offense and trying to figure out how Harvin fits into that.
"We know what he is and we know who he is. We just have to imagine things they could do with him," Williams said. "We know the coordinator, he's been here, and we know the type of plays that he likes to use Percy in. We just practice those and try to put ourselves in the offensive coordinator's position and see what we think he would do with them."
The only thing the Vikings know for sure is that Harvin will be motivated to play them in his Seahawks debut. Things didn't work out between Harvin and Vikings, but Frazier wasn't interested in going into details.
"Lot of reasons. Lot of reasons. Lot of details in that story," Frazier said. "… But I hope the does well. I wish him the best."
After this weekend.
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.