NEW YORK (AP) — He caught just one pass during the regular season, and did nothing but watch from the sidelines when the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers to get to the Super Bowl.
Funny, though, how many people can’t stop talking about Percy Harvin.
“Percy is an atomic bomb,” Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette said. “He is the ultimate weapon for our offense.”
“When he gets in the game, I think everyone has to yell, ‘He’s in! He’s in! There he goes, number 11, number 11,” said Denver cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. “He is a guy that can make it happen from everywhere on the field. You have to watch him.”
So far there hasn’t been much to watch in Harvin’s brief tenure with the Seahawks, unless you happened to be at the bank when he deposited the first chunk from the $67-million contract he signed after being acquired from the Minnesota Vikings for a handful of draft picks. There was a time near the end of the season when the odds of Harvin being put on injured reserve for the year were a lot better than they were of him playing in the Super Bowl.
But in the Super Bowl he is, and the speedy receiver who can’t seem to stay on the field could be a difference maker against the Broncos.
It’s a possibility Harvin is eager to embrace.
“I’ve been hearing X-factor and this talk,” Harvin said. “This is not my first rodeo. I’ve played in a lot of football games and I’ve been effective at doing that. I’m not worried about anything other than what I’ve always done, and that is go out there and play football the way I know how.”
No one has ever doubted Harvin can play football. He caught passes — and lots of them — from Tim Tebow at Florida, and had some electrifying catch-and-runs in the four years he played for the Vikings.
What Harvin has had is trouble staying healthy, from migraines that seemed to always occur at the wrong time to the hip injury the Seahawks didn’t see coming. And just when it seemed he might be healthy enough to give Seattle a playoff boost, he suffered a concussion when his head bounced off the turf of CenturyLink Field after leaping for a pass in the end zone in the second quarter of a 23-15 divisional playoff win over New Orleans.
His season stat line is a disjointed one, with Harvin on the field for a total of just 40 snaps. Including the New Orleans game he’s caught just four passes for 38 yards.
Hardly the kind of numbers that might keep Denver defensive backs up at night worrying. But worry they do, because Harvin can line up anywhere and do things that can change games once he gets the ball.
“You have to know your history on Percy Harvin,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “You have to go back and watch the film at Minnesota, see how they used him there, and see that he can do some things. You have to understand he is a guy that can play every position from the backfield to the outside to being in the slot.”
Just a few weeks ago, the Seahawks were about to give up on Harvin. His roster spot was too valuable to waste, and if it weren’t for an impressive workout session with quarterback Russell Wilson that doubled as a postseason tryout the day after the regular season, Harvin would likely have been done for the year.
He almost gave up himself.
“I’m going to be really blunt and straightforward. If it wasn’t for my teammates being there for me the way they were, I might’ve just shut it down,” Harvin said. “Just being discouraged, there came a point in time where the training staff didn’t know whether it was a smart idea to try to come back in the same season. I probably would’ve been done with the season if it wasn’t for my teammates.”
If the playoff game with New Orleans is any indication, expect Harvin to get a lot of touches Sunday night. He’ll be used in the slot and split out wide, and he will be the primary kickoff and punt returner for the Seahawks.
Break a return or a tackle or two on a route, and it’s entirely conceivable he plays a deciding role for a team that doesn’t have a lot of explosiveness without him.
“I want to hold up my end of the bargain and do the things I was brought here to do,” Harvin said. “I’m looking to go out there, play a great game and try to make some plays for my teammates. Just being out there with them gives me joy.”
Playing in the Super Bowl could salvage a season for Harvin and make up for a lot of frustration for him and the coaching staff.
And playing well in the Super Bowl could give Seahawks’ fans a lot of joy, too.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or https://twitter.com/timdahlberg