When it comes to returning kicks, former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman says “playing scared” can’t be in wide receiver Percy Harvin’s vocabulary.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Seahawks coaches, staff, or personnel.
Percy Harvin has returned just two kickoffs for the Seahawks. One was a 58-yard bolt that ignited the 12th Man at CenturyLink field, and the other was an 87-yard TD that sealed a Super Bowl victory for the city of Seattle. But for some, the notion of Harvin returning kickoffs is too dangerous and too risky to sacrifice the speedy receiver who also poses a significant threat on offense.
It’s understandable considering the fact that Harvin only appeared in three of the 19 games the Seahawks played last season. At this time last year we were all disappointed when Harvin started training camp with a hip surgery that shelved him until week 11 of the regular season. The lingering effects of that surgery and other injuries made him unavailable for the majority of the 2013 season.
But there are several arguments in favor of Harvin returning kickoffs.
First and foremost, you can’t play scared. Injuries can happen any time and in any situation. A player like Percy Harvin could hurt himself working out during the offseason. Tight end Anthony McCoy and defensive end Greg Scruggs both found that out during the 2013 offseason. McCoy and Scruggs were both hurt in non-contact training activities and missed the entire season. The fact is it’s a dangerous game. You must accept that reality and never make a decision based on the fear of injury. I spoke to Harvin about this back in May after one of the Seahawks OTA’s. As for worrying about getting hurt, Harvin responded, “If you’re worried about getting hurt, you’re going to get hurt. If you hit the hole at 100 MPH, good things are going to happen.”
If it was that dangerous, why aren’t kickoff returners dropping like flies? Until someone can present me with statistical evidence that kickoff returners are more prone to injury, I’ll assume that they have the same chance of getting injured as any other player on the field. Again, it’s a dangerous game and I could easily make the case that Harvin is safer returning kicks than on offense considering what happened last season. In the New Orleans divisional playoff game, he had to leave the game and missed the NFC Championship game because of hits he took from Saints defenders while playing receiver.
You don’t buy a thoroughbred race horse and put him out on the back 40 to plow the fields. You don’t buy a Maserati to drive it though a school zone on the way to church. You don’t buy an Armani suit to wear to a picnic. You get the picture. Harvin has 3,361 yards and six TDs returning kicks in his six-year career. That’s why GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll decided to invest in him. Besides, why deprive Percy and Seahawk fans of that joy?
Lastly, offensive coordinators will scheme all night long to get a receiver like Harvin in the scenario that lies before him when he returns a kick. Consider that situation, when Harvin fields a kickoff, the closest defender is typically 15 -20 yards away and all 11 players are spread out across the field that is 53 1/3-yards wide. That is an open field situation that offensive coaches can only dream about creating for a player like Harvin. Not only that, very few of the 11 players covering a kickoff are starting defenders. And one of them is a kicker! Harvin’s speed, explosiveness and ability to make people miss combined with the opportunity to use both the depth and width of the entire field are ideal. There simply is not a better place for Harvin to use his talents than in that wide open scenario. Harvin addressed that back in May.
“When they draw up plays for speedy receivers, they draw up a play to get you in space and use your kick return abilities—make people miss, dodge bullets and hit holes.”
When I played for the Seahawks in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a saying that team leader Jacob Green used to shout out before every game in the locker room: “If you’re scared, say you’re scared and turn your (stuff) into Walt!” Walt was our equipment manager and the saying was a reference to a player who once found himself so paralyzed by fear just before a game, he turned in his helmet and pads.
It became a battle cry that meant a couple of things.One is that there’s no reason to be scared—it’s just a game. But also it meant that you can’t play scared. Playing scared is how you get hurt and playing scared is how you get beat.
Don’t be scared. Percy isn’t. Harvin’s theory? “If I’m going to worry about that, I might as well play a different sport.”