Harvin's showing skills on many levels

Illness aside, Percy Harvin's versatile skills have impressed coaches and teammates, helping him make an impact few rookies receivers are able to. Harvin talked about his transition to the NFL Wednesday, one day before he was missing from Winter Park because of sickness.

There was little questioning the talents of Percy Harvin heading into the 2009 draft. Anyone who had seen him in person or even on tape could see that he possesses rare explosiveness and playmaking ability. But, after testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, there were questions about his character and the "risk/reward" tag was thrown on him.

The Vikings were the first team willing to take the chance and, through two weeks of the regular season, it has paid dividends. Harvin has shown the versatility that the Vikings were looking for out of him. He has returned kickoffs, been used in the Wildcat formation, been used as a runner and has two of Brett Favre's three touchdown tosses. He has lived up to his pre-draft billing and is already having his name thrown out as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

If anything, Harvin has surpassed expectations. Where many rookie receivers struggle to find their way with the increased speed of the NFL, Harvin has made a seamless transition and has shown a lot more toughness than was expected of a player his size. He can take the big hit and keep churning his legs for extra yards, something he said he had to do in high school and college.

"I spent (my college career playing) in a spread offense and I almost always played in the slot. I've always had to go up against linebackers and strong safeties. Doing that and playing running back when I was growing up has a lot to do with it," Harvin said on Wednesday, a day before another illness – his third since being drafted by the Vikings – kept him away from practice.

Harvin has also shown an affinity for blocking, another bonus that wasn't at the top of his college resume but something that has gotten the attention of the coaching staff. While some players will "take a play off" when they know they aren't going to be involved, Harvin said he is proud of his ability to make seal blocks, because with an explosive runner like Adrian Peterson, he knows that one key block can turn a short gain into a long touchdown.

"I pride myself on that," he said. "With somebody as dynamic as 2-8 (Peterson), all he needs is a seam to get going. I pride myself on blocking when I don't get the ball."

Harvin said his experience has been above what he had expected. Most rookie receivers are told that it will take time to work their way into the lineup, but Harvin was used at multiple positions from the first day he arrived at training camp and that hasn't changed. If anything, the addition of Brett Favre has sped up the process of regularly incorporating him into the Vikings offense.

"They've done a nice job of grooming me and throwing me in from Day One," Harvin said. "I'm very comfortable with the offense and look to grow from here. Brett has taught me a lot, especially on third downs and adjusting at halftime. He's done a tremendous job."

Favre has taken Harvin under his wing, much in the same way he did with so many receivers in Green Bay, like Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Favre has been a teacher, a mentor, a motivator and a friend to a rookie who was in grade school when Favre made his NFL debut.

"He's played a long time and a lot of his receivers have played the slot," Harvin said. "He's familiar with that, especially working the middle of the field – where I play a lot. It's right at home for him. At halftime, we adjust and get going more in the second half."

The one unknown area in his game that was much discussed before the draft was Harvin's use as a kick returner. Because he was so valuable to the offens at the University of Florida, Harvin didn't get the chance to use his speed in the return game, but that has changed. Through his first two games, Harvin ranks third in the league in kickoff returns, averaging 29.7 yards per return. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said that Harvin's ability to shorten the field for the offense has been critical to their early-season success.

"Starting field position is very crucial," Shiancoe said. "There are percentages on what the likelihood is that you will score from different yard marks. Our kickoff return game has definitely set us up for success."

While his teammates and many in the national media are singing his praises, Harvin said he isn't concerning himself with individual numbers or the buzz surrounding him being a Rookie of the Year candidate. He said his focus is to contribute wherever he can, whether it is as a receiver, a running back, a Wildcat quarterback or a return man. The part that may be the most frightening for opposing offensive coordinators is that he may just be scratching the surface of what he can accomplish.

"It's a learning process," Harvin said. "The more I can touch the ball and get acclimated with the offense, the better. My teammates have done a lot to get me going and bringing me along. A lot of credit goes to them."


Viking Update Top Stories