Seahawks’ wide receiver Harvin says he’s faster, more elusive

RENTON — As a standout at the University of Florida, then in the NFL, Percy Harvin has for a long time been considered one of the most explosive players in football.

But here’s a scary thought for opposing NFL defenses: what if the Harvin who was an MVP candidate halfway through the 2012 season, and the Harvin who returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl last year, what if that wasn’t the best version of Harvin?

What if the Seahawks receiver is even faster and more elusive than the player who was already considered one of the NFL’s best big-play threats?

According to Harvin, that will be the case in 2014. After missing almost all of last season following hip surgery, Harvin says he’s feeling better than he has since “maybe before college.”

Harvin said the same thing during offseason workouts, so that by itself is nothing new, but the fact that he still feels this good after training camp and two preseason games is a very good sign for Harvin and Seattle’s offense. Fair or not, Harvin’s durability always will be a topic of discussion. (Never mind that he played in all but three games from 2009, his rookie season with Minnesota, until the middle of 2012 when he suffered a serious ankle injury, coincidentally, in Seattle.) So, for Harvin to be practicing almost every day and feeling this good bodes very well for the Seahawks and is bad news for Seattle’s 2014 opponents.

“When he has the football in his hands, people get a little nervous,” quarterback Russell Wilson said, referring to opposing defenders. “You just kind of get that sense. Having his presence out there on the football field, it’s a very good thing for us. He can make a lot of plays, he’s done it his whole entire career. Think about his first four years, he was an MVP-type player.”

Harvin noted that having almost an entire season off allowed his entire body to heal, and also that the hip issue had been affecting other parts of his body such as his hamstrings.

“My legs just feel how they’re supposed to feel,” he said. “It’s very fluid, very smooth, it’s all good … I definitely feel a lot better, I’ve got a lot more motion than I’m used to having, I can do a lot more cuts, just a lot of different things, a lot of motions that I wasn’t able to do before.”

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Harvin’s preseason is that he is practicing nearly every day. During an offseason minicamp, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said they wouldn’t often let Harvin practice more than two consecutive days, and that continued into the early part of training camp, but Harvin has been feeling so good that he’s pushing back when training staff wants him to take a rest day.

“We had to go back and forth a couple times on it, because those guys really wanted me to get my rest,” he said. “But after my first two, three days I felt that I was in a rhythm, so I told them I wanted to stay in a rhythm and start putting my practices back-to-back. I was recovering with no problem, as I kept going the legs kept getting fresher and fresher, and right now I’m feeling very, very good where I’m at right now. I’m looking forward to the season.”

Billionaire bests Master’s champ

With the Boeing Classic being held at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge this weekend, local golf legend Fred Couples was a guest at Wednesday’s practice, as well as new L.A. Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

After practice ended, Couples and Ballmer, as well as Seahawks Steven Hauschka, Jermaine Kearse and Cooper Helfet had a closest-to-the-pin contest, hitting floating golf balls at a green floating in Lake Washington about 90 yards away from the practice field. And in an upset, Ballmer beat the former Master’s champion in a playoff after each of them put two of three shots on the green in regulation. Hauschka, who is a 5-handicap, was the only Seahawk to hit the target during the competition, putting one of three shots on the green.

Despite being a billionaire owner of an NBA team and the former CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer said he was “a little bit nervous” before taking his hacks. And maybe it was those nerves that led to the most humorous moment of the afternoon, when after putting his first two shots on the green, Ballmer skulled his final shot and drilled a GoPro camera that was on the ground filming the action.

“I felt good that I hit something,” he quipped.

Told that the going rate on a GoPro was $2 billion — the price he paid for the Clippers — Ballmer joked, “That’s the price of everything nowadays.”

Defensive backs scuffle

It’s pretty common for small fights to happen in football practice, particularly this time of year, but what’s far more unusual is for teammates on the same side of the ball to go at it.

Yet that’s what happened early in Wednesday’s practice when defensive backs Tharold Simon and Earl Thomas had to be separated. The incident happened very early in practice while players were still warming up in position groups, so it was during the time when TV cameras are allowed to be rolling.

While it is unclear what sparked the incident, King 5 TV cameras caught most of it, beginning with Simon jumping towards Thomas, who then shoved the cornerback away. Simon took his helmet off and began jawing at Thomas before Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell stepped in front of Thomas while assistant coach Marquand Manuel pulled Thomas away along with linebacker Bobby Wagner.

It was the third time in as many days that players have had to be separated in practice, though in the previous two cases it was the more traditional offensive lineman vs. defensive lineman scuffle. Just a day earlier, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was asked about practice skirmishes, and said it’s something the team would prefer to avoid.

“That’s our job as coaches to get that handled as best we can,” Quinn said. “Really, we want to know what we’re competing for. At the end of it, it’s how good we can make each other by how hard we go against each other. Sometimes that line can get crossed, but what we’re competing for is to see how good we can get. That’s what the message here at practice is all about. At times the flare-ups may happen, and it’s our job to control those as quickly as we can.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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