When Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin opened training camp on the PUP list, it raised a few eyebrows. Fans and media members alike were wondering whether or not there was reason for concern.
Harvin hasn’t exactly been immune to injuries over the course of his four-year career. He missed 10 games total as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2009 and 2010, he sat out three games due to migraines. Then, in 2012, he missed the final seven games of the season because of a nasty ankle sprain.
This, in turn, had people questioning Seattle's acquisition of Harvin, as the Seahawks traded away three draft picks (including their 2013 first-rounder) for the All-Pro wideout in March. Yet, the Seahawks didn’t seem overly concerned. They believed his migraine problems were behind him based on the fact he told the organization he hadn’t had a flare-up in two years (h/t Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk).
Their confidence in his health allowed the first-round pick out of Florida to garner a five-year, $64.5 million contract extension. The deal made him one of the highest paid wide receivers in the league. On average, Harvin will make almost $11.2 million throughout the length of his six-year contract, according to Spotrac.com.
That’s a lot of money for a guy who can’t seemingly stay out of harm's way. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted that Harvin will go under the knife on Thursday to repair a slightly torn labrum in his hip. Seattle’s team doctor didn’t recommended surgery, but Harvin sought out a second opinion from Dr. Bryan Kelly.
It was ultimately Harvin’s choice, and he felt surgery was the best option. So, it’s safe to say there was a major reason for concern when the newly acquired wide receiver was missing in action at the start of training camp.
As always, there’s no definitive timetable on his return, yet Rapoport speculated that he could miss 3-4 months. At the earliest, the dynamic playmaker could reappear in the Seahawks lineup on Nov. 3 when Seattle squares off against the Buccaneers at home.
Obviously, that would be a best-case scenario. To make this happen, the team would have to place him on the PUP list at the beginning of the season. Subsequently, they would have to activate him following the club’s Week 6 contest against the Titans. He would then take up a roster spot for two additional weeks. But that’s nothing considering he would be ready to suit up against Tampa Bay 21 days later.
Another option would be to place him on injured reserve with the designation to return, in which Harvin would have to miss the first eight games of the season. This may be the team’s best option because he would be eligible to return for Seattle’s first game in November.
However, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports believes Harvin will most likely return in December, as a November return seems a little too optimistic at this point. Regardless, the Seahawks must continue to press on in Harvin’s absence.
Pete Carroll and Co. managed to win 11 regular-season games last year without Harvin, so don’t be surprised if they don’t miss a beat. Yet, it’s still important to examine how the injury affects the Seahawks as a whole.
Offensively, Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had big plans for the 185-pound wide receiver. They envisioned Percy Harvin spending time split out wide or in the slot. Moreover, they didn’t rule out using him out of the backfield on occasion. Bevell echoed this sentiment when he spoke to 710 AM ESPN Seattle back in March (via Seahawks.com):
He can really hit the house at any point, at any spot on the field – that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. You can use him all over the place. You can use him in the slot, he could be a standalone receiver outside, you could also just hand him the ball and let him be a runner as well.
Additionally, Seattle had Harvin penciled in as the team’s return man. They made that very clear when they released running back Leon Washington immediately after the trade with Minnesota. By no means was Washington a slouch; since joining the Seahawks in 2010, he had scored four touchdowns on kickoff returns.
Furthermore, the diminutive running back was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 2012 after he amassed 784 yards on 27 kickoff returns. Unfortunately, Washington’s production paled in comparison to Harvin’s. Since 2009, Harvin scored more touchdowns on kickoff returns than Washington, and he had a better kickoff return average. Plus, he’s five years younger.
As it stands right now, Harvin’s injury affects Seattle's special teams more than anything.
For the most part, the wide receiver position has remained the same. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate will start on the outside, while Doug Baldwin will start in the slot. Look for fourth-round pick Chris Harper to see an increase in playing time in Harvin's absence. The Kansas State product should have no problem securing the No. 4 wide receiver spot.
Let’s not forget, the Seahawks offense was the No. 2 offense in the NFL during the final eight games of the 2012 season. Without a doubt, the WR corps will be just fine. Albert Breer of NFL.com hit the nail on the head here:
Percy Harvin is a luxury—he wasn’t a need. Seattle didn’t become a pass-first team when it acquired him; the Seahawks will continue to lean on the running game and use it to set up the pass. Coach Carroll wants to pound the rock and control the clock. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 315 times last year—don’t expect that to change.
General manager John Schneider has built this team to last. The NFL season is a marathon and the best teams emerge during the second half of the season, not the first eight games. Harvin should be back for the home stretch, so it’s best to step back and breathe. Three months is a long time in the NFL, yet Seattle knows he will be well worth the wait when he returns fully healed.