By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — Pete Carroll said Wednesday that he doesn’t yet know if Percy Harvin will play Sunday. Call it a crazy hunch, but we’ll probably hear something similar again Friday.
Then there’s a good chance we’ll go through the same thing next week. So consider this your injury update and public service announcement all rolled into one:
Percy Harvin’s status is going to be a mystery for a while — quite possibly the rest of the season — so the sooner we can all accept that the better.
NFL coaches love to be vague when it comes to injuries — just ask any New England Patriots fan. In Harvin’s case, there seems to be plenty of legitimate uncertainty about his surgically repaired hip. So do yourself a favor and don’t stress out about Harvin’s status every day. He’ll play eventually, and he’ll probably be spectacular when he does, but the odds are good that we’re going to do the will-he-won’t-he dance for a while.
“I don’t know that. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t,” Carroll said when asked if the Harvin uncertainty will persist. “We’ve just to wait and see how it goes. It’s going to be the next day after his work to see how he is, and make sure he’s strong and safe and secure and all of that. And we’re going to continue to try to figure it out with him.”
What we know right now is that Harvin had some sort of procedure over the weekend, reportedly a cortisone shot, to relieve inflammation. He didn’t practice Wednesday, but did do some running on the side. Carroll also made it clear the idea of shutting Harvin down until the playoffs is not being discussed,
“No,” Carroll said. “We’re just trying to get him right. He wants to play right now, and we want him to play as soon as he’s capable.”
And what’s funny is that while the outside world is fretting over Harvin’s hip, the team is just fine with the uncertainty, and with good reason. If you weren’t convinced already, Monday night’s victory over New Orleans provided a clear example that the Seahawks are more than capable of being an explosive offense even without Harvin and Sidney Rice, who has been out since a Week 8 knee injury.
Instead of wondering when he might get Harvin back, Russell Wilson made big play after big play, throwing to a group of receivers that include second-round pick Golden Tate and three players who went undrafted out of college: Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette. Baldwin leads the team with 663 receiving yards. Kearse is tied with Baldwin, Tate and tight end Zach Miller for the team lead with four touchdown catches. Lockette is a player Seattle recently signed off its practice squad.
Seattle’s receivers never will put up gaudy numbers in this run-happy offense, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a very talented group, even minus the big-name players.
“I would have to tell you honestly that this is probably the best receiving corps in the NFL from the top down,” Baldwin said.
He realizes this comes across as an outlandish claim to most, but Baldwin won’t back down from it.
“The pundits, they’ll probably look at me like I’m crazy. ‘Oh, nobody has 1,000 yards, nobody’s done this,’” Baldwin said. “Well, we don’t throw the ball often enough to get 1,000 yards, but if you look at the efficiency of the receivers from top down, it’s unreal.
“You’ve got Golden Tate, who’s probably one of the most electrifying receivers in the game when he gets the ball in hands, then you have the most efficient guy in the league in Jermaine Kearse. Every ball that’s thrown to him is pretty much caught.”
And while he wouldn’t brag about himself, Baldwin is having a much better year than most realize.
The website FootballOutsiders.com uses a stat called Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) that looks at players’ effectiveness on a per-play basis. And while DVOA is hardly the be-all and end-all when it comes to player evaluations, it does help paint a more complete picture. Based on that stat, Baldwin has been the second-best receiver in the NFL this season, while Tate ranks 20th. Kearse, meanwhile, doesn’t have enough catches to qualify in those rankings, but his DVOA is actually higher than Baldwin’s.
Want a more traditional stat?
Among receivers who have caught 15 or more passes this season, Kearse ranks fifth in the league with an average gain of 18.1 yards per catch, while Baldwin is 12th at 16.6. The Seahawks now lead the NFL with an average of 8.9 yards gained per pass attempt, and Wilson rightly gets a ton of credit for that, but let’s not pretend the receivers aren’t a big part of the equation, too.
“It’s a really cool group of guys,” Carroll said. “We’ve seen such great flexibility and playmaking out of all of them. … It’s been a great plus to our season that with getting guys banged up and not having everybody there, that guys can elevate and rise up and be big factors and contribute to the winning plays of the game, not just making it through it. We’re in good shape at the spot.”
Yes, they’re in good shape, even if Harvin has to sit out again this week. So don’t waste your energy wondering if Harvin will or won’t be on the field Sunday. Instead, appreciate the talented receiving group that has quietly been making big plays all season.
“I love Percy Harvin, but at the end of the day, let’s not take away from the fact that we’re 10-1 without Percy,” Baldwin said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything about Percy, because when we get Percy back it’s going to be unbelievable. But let’s give some credit to the guys who have been here. … We’ve got so much talent, so let’s give some credit to the guys who have been balling since the beginning.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.