Harvin handling migraines, expanded role

With the loss of Sidney Rice, fellow Pro Bowler Percy Harvin will have an expanded role that will give him different opportunities. Harvin also addressed his battle with migraines, saying he's figuring out the triggers and hoping to better manage the headaches.

Many Vikings fans were somewhat confused with the team's decision to release Javon Walker prior to the first regular-season game. Although a move likely made more because of finances than need – had Walker been on the final 53-man roster, his entire 2010 contract would have been guaranteed – the Vikings are down to just four healthy wide receivers on their roster – Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and Greg Lewis.

That gamble is going to be put to the test Thursday when the Vikings open the 2010 regular season at New Orleans. With only four receivers on the active roster, if the Vikings come anywhere close to the possession time they had in the NFC Championship Game, their stamina will be tested.

Harvin said the team will be tested but not shaken by the lack of their leading receiver from 2009, Sidney Rice. While Harvin's role in the offense is expected to expand significantly, he said he's not placing any additional pressure on himself. He believes the entire receiving corps is ready to accept the challenge of filling the void left by Rice's absence.

"It's not just me, everybody has to step up," Harvin said. "We're not handicapped by losing one person – no different than if it was me or Brett or anybody else. Somebody else has got to pick the torch up and run with it. We're more than capable of doing that. It's going to take a lot of preparation, but I believe with the receivers we've got, we can get the job done."

If all goes as planned, Harvin and Bernard Berrian are going to have busy nights. Harvin will be returning kickoffs and both he and Berrian are listed as potential punt returners, ironically along with Asher Allen – one of only three healthy cornerbacks on the roster.

Berrian has been in every practice since the start of training camp and has got himself into game-ready conditioning. Harvin has missed considerable time with the death of his grandmother and a recurrence of migraine headaches that sidelined him as a rookie. Although his time on the field has been minimal in comparison to the other receivers set to play Thursday, Harvin said neither of his two problems this preseason – missing conditioning time and migraines – are going to be an issue.

Speaking to his conditioning, Harvin said being away from the practice field hasn't reduced his workout regimen.

"I ran all the plays with the (first unit) the last two days and I felt good," Harvin said. "My teammates told me I look like I've been here the whole time. I worked on my own conditioning even when I haven't been here, talking to Brett about the plays and looking at film constantly. I'm ready to play ball."

Harvin said he has become resigned to the fact that his migraines will strike, usually without warning. He said stress, changes in weather, diet, activity and pollen can be triggers for migraine attacks and, while he isn't expecting they will vanish any time soon, he's working on trying to figure out what his individual triggers are that set off attacks.

"There's no miracle solution for it," Harvin said. "The people I've talked to have had them for 40 years and my mom had them for 35 years. She's just now getting out of them. It's just something you hope to maintain and playing contact football may not be the best thing for that."

Proclaiming himself ready to go, Harvin said his role as slot receiver in the 2009 offense is going to be altered. He will be switching to the outside on most routes and slide into the slot in situations when Greg Camarillo and Berrian are on the outside in three-receiver sets.

"That's the thing about this offense – we've got a lot of people that can make plays, but, at the same, we can play different positions," Harvin said. "You'll see me a lot lined up out wide this time and you'll see me go down into the slot. We have a lot of different plays and all of us can play different positions."

Although the loss of Rice, who led the team in both receptions and yards last year to earn a Pro Bowl selection, is significant, Harvin said that the Vikings are ready to go to war without Rice and not skip a beat.

"Everyone is professional here," Harvin said. "We're not handicapped by (losing) one or two players. We're all going to pick up the slack and be fine."

Harvin credits the lack of panic to a veteran-laden team that has played a lot of NFL games – both at full strength and missing key component players. Aside from the rookie class of 2010, there are only two players on the 53-man roster (Camarillo and Lito Sheppard) that weren't on the team last year. He said that familiarity and abundance of leadership is going to take the Vikings a long way.

"This is a veteran team," Harvin said. "We're all used to each other. The veterans do a great job helping us learn or the different things they do to prepare for a game like this. We're all prepared and looking forward to it."

The growing hype around Thursday's game continues to build and there is going to be a lot said about the NFC Championship Game that inexplicably sent the Vikings home and the Saints on to beat the Colts and win the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Harvin said the game will have a playoff atmosphere and be packed with emotion, but not for the reason you might think. As far as he's concerned, the loss in New Orleans last January is ancient history. This is a new chapter in his career and the Saints are big not because of the battle last year, but because they're first.

"We're not looking back at last year anymore," Harvin said. "This is a different season and, while the team is pretty much the same as it was last year, what we did last season means nothing right now. This is a new year and, while we are playing New Orleans, more important to us is to get off to a good start for this season."

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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