As good as the Seattle Seahawks were a year ago, they could be even better in 2014.
A healthy Percy Harvin might do the trick.
Harvin, one of the NFL’s most dynamic players, missed virtually all of Seattle’s Super Bowl season following surgery to repair a labrum tear in his hip. Playing in one regular-season game and two postseason games, he handled the ball just 10 times in a combination of rushes, pass receptions and kickoff returns.
But with those few glimpses, Harvin has the other Seahawks eager to see more this season.
“He’s an incredible football player,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a great competitor, and he shows it every day when he’s on the practice field. … His playmaking ability and the extraordinary speed that he has shows up daily, and it’s really cool.”
“He’s an explosive playmaker,” agreed Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “And I’m glad he’s on our side.”
In last season’s cameo appearances, Harvin had three carries and each time gained 10 yards or more, including a 30-yard burst around left end early in the Super Bowl. Two of his five receptions were for 15 yards or more. And his two kickoff returns were both longer than 55 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown scamper to start the second half of the Super Bowl.
“You look at last year and you see the significant impact he had in those few plays,” Bevell said. “So you want to be able to have the ball in his hands each and every game because … he can do a lot of things.”
Harvin was traded to Seattle from Minnesota in March of last year, with the Seahawks giving up first- and seventh-round draft picks to the Vikings in 2013 and a third-round selection this year. He then signed a six-year, $67 million contract ($25.5 million guaranteed) with the Seahawks.
Unfortunately, the hip injury and subsequent surgery kept Harvin out for more than two months to start the regular season. He made his first appearance in a Nov. 11 game against Minnesota and in spot minutes managed a 17-yard reception and a 58-yard kickoff return. But his surgically repaired hip became inflamed after the game and he was inactive until Seattle’s first postseason game against New Orleans. He played briefly against the Saints, but then was forced out again, this time by a concussion that sidelined him until the Super Bowl.
But after mending fully in the offseason, Harvin has been injury-free and virtually pain-free through this summer’s training camp.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m feeling very, very good about where I’m at, and I’m looking forward to the season.”
Asked when he last felt this good, Harvin had to pause and think.
“Maybe before college,” he said. “The biggest thing with me was that my hip was (causing) a lot of the hamstring and knee problems and things like that. But now my legs are feeling how they’re supposed to feel. Very fluent, very smooth, so it’s all good.
“I’ve got a lot more (leg) motion then I’m used to having,” he added. “I can do a lot more cuts and just a lot of different motions that I wasn’t able to do before. … I definitely feel a lot better.”
As the Seahawks head into the 2014 season, Harvin will be part of the team’s retooled receiving corps. Gone are two players who had important roles last season — Sidney Rice, who retired, and Golden Tate, who signed an offseason free-agent contract with Detroit. Another change is the arrival of Paul Richardson, Seattle’s top draft pick in 2014.
The team has other returning receivers, of course, including Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette. But the biggest weapon, at least in terms of sheer explosiveness, is Harvin.
“When he has the football in his hands, (opponents) get a little nervous,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “You just kind of get that sense. He’s very fast and very quick, and he can make a lot of plays … so his presence out there on the football field is a very good thing for us.”
The other thing about Harvin, Wilson added, “is that he’s a great locker room teammate. He’s unbelievable in there. … We love him as a teammate.”
Bevell, head coach Pete Carroll and other members of Seattle’s staff are always looking for ways to utilize Harvin’s remarkable speed beyond pass routes. Returning kicks is one example, but another came in the Super Bowl when the Seahawks three times handed him the ball on sweeps, with each one gaining double-digit yardage.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” Harvin said of his many roles. “I just do whatever they call me to do. I’ve just been … trying to perfect anything they ask me to do.”
Neither does he care much about individual accomplishments. “I don’t set goals or (worry about) personal things. I just want to be in the mix. As long as I’m in there practicing and working hard, everything else will take care of itself.”
According to Bevell, Harvin helps Seattle’s offense even when he does not get the ball. Opponents have to adjust their defenses to account for his speed, and that can create openings for other plays and players.
“I think you saw that in the Super Bowl,” Bevell said. “Just being able to bring him around (on sweeps) and do the things we did with him, it had a significant impact even when he wasn’t getting the ball. They have to pay attention to him when he’s out there.
“So we’re going to use him in a lot of different ways. … And being able to have him on a consistent basis (this season) will be huge for us.”