By John Boyle Herald Columnist
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Over and over, Percy Harvin has been asked about a frustrating 2013 season, one that was almost entirely lost to injuries, and over and over the Seattle Seahawks receiver comes back to the same word.
That’s hardly how you would expect an athlete to describe a season in which he played all of six quarters, playoffs included, and especially not when he is in his first season with a new team that paid a lot, both in draft picks and cash, to acquire him.
Yet Harvin can feel blessed because the strange journey that is his first season in Seattle isn’t over just yet. He still gets to play in the Super Bowl. Had the Seahawks lost the NFC championship game with Harvin sitting out with a concussion, he might describe this as a lost season, but instead, he takes positives from a season that barely was.
In fact, Harvin insists that if you could take him back to July, before hip surgery, before the setback following his November return to action, before the concussion when he finally returned for the playoffs, he’d happily go through that year all over again if he knew it would end with an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Everything worked for the best. I wouldn’t take anything back from this season. This has made me a stronger person mentally and physically.”
We’ve been talking about Percy Harvin so much this season, Does he need hip surgery? Will he practice? Will he play? Has he been cleared from his concussion? So, it’s almost easy to overlook how unique and potentially huge for the Seahawks this situation really is.
Harvin played one game in the regular season, catching one pass and returning one kickoff against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. After that, his surgically repaired hip flared up and Harvin missed the rest of the regular season, only to make his return against the New Orleans Saints. That return was a brief one, with Harvin exiting before halftime with a concussion that caused him to miss the NFC championship game.
Yet now the Seahawks, a 15-3 team, are suddenly adding one of the game’s most explosive players. Has anything like this happened in the Super Bowl before?
Sure players have returned from injury, but to go through an entire year playing only one regular-season game, yet still be so talented that the team holds a roster spot for you just in case you ever make it back? That just doesn’t happen. Except now it has, which means the Seahawks, a team that was good enough to get to the Super Bowl without Harvin, now get to add a player quarterback Russell Wilson called “arguably the best player in the National Football League before he got hurt (last season with Minnesota).”
Add to that the fact that Harvin has fresh legs while most of the players around him are dealing with the toll that 18 games take on a body, and that the Broncos have very little film on Harvin as a Seahawk to study. It almost seems unfair.
“He’s been electrifying every time he’s been in the game,” Wilson said. “He’s been able to practice the last several weeks a good amount. He looks excellent, to be honest with you. He’s electrifying. He’s lightning fast. He can catch the ball extremely well. He understands the game. He’s extremely tough, too. … We’re looking forward to having him out there. He’s a talent. He’s a threat when he gets on the field.”
Of course it’s far from a guarantee that Harvin shines in the Super Bowl. Cynics will point out that he’s far from a lock to even get through the game, and even if Harvin stays healthy, there’s inevitably going to be some element of rust from a player who not only missed almost all of this season, but the second half of last season as well. Yet Harvin is such a unique talent that he could drastically change the game with only a handful of touches. It’s not that crazy to envision a scenario in which Harvin goes from injured all season to Super Bowl MVP.
“He’s such a versatile athlete, that you have a lot of opportunities to do different things with him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “So, it causes a defense to have to be on guard for him running with the football, him catching and running, and also the tremendous speed he has to get downfield deep. So, he’s rare in that aspect that he has all of those dimensions going for him. We knew it from recruiting him, we knew it from playing against him, we knew it from watching him and then we were thrilled to have the chance to put him on our team.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to demonstrate how that’s going to all work out and fit with our club yet, to any extent, but this will be an opportunity, in this game, to get him involved.”
While Harvin is soaking in everything this week and yes, feeling blessed, he doesn’t see this game as a chance to redeem himself. Yes, he made $14.5 million this year, and yes, the Seahawks gave up three draft picks, including a first-rounder, to acquire Harvin before then signing him to a contract that included $25.5 million in guaranteed money. But he says he won’t be thinking about any of that Sunday.
“I don’t know about redemption, because I’m not looking at it in that way,” he said. “I’m just looking at it as an opportunity. It’s a blessing to be able to play in the Super Bowl, a game that I’ve dreamed of playing in since I was a little kid. After all I’ve been through, to be able to know I’ve reached that goal, right here, right now, it’s amazing.”
As for the people who made the decision to acquire Harvin, if there are any regrets, they won’t admit them publicly for obvious reasons. And really, as crazy as it sounds, if Harvin can help deliver the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, it’s hard to say it was a bad trade regardless of what Seattle gave up to get him.
“I feel bad for him, the way that this has gone,” general manager John Schneider said. “I’m sure it’s been tough for him. I’m very happy for him now. I think this is incredibly exciting for Percy and his family and his teammates and the staff and our fans that he has an opportunity to play in the biggest game of the year. But I feel bad for him that this has gone the way it’s gone. But the best thing about it is that it’s a six-year contract and he’s a young man.”
Harvin admits that he was close to shutting it down this year, and that the encouragement of his teammates helped him get through a year he described as being at times discouraging and frustrating. But now that he’s playing in the Super Bowl, Harvin is taking a bigger-picture approach on a season that could have a perfect ending despite what has happened up to this point.
“I’m just looking at this whole season as a blessing,” he said. “When it all started, you ask yourself ‘Why this, why that?’ But the team kept winning and kept winning and kept winning, and last week after that last interception (that clinched the win over San Francisco), I really couldn’t believe it. After all the ups and down… for us to be here right now fully healthy, that’s awesome.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.