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X factor

Injuries limited Percy Harvin's impact during Seattle's run to the Super Bowl, but he's back -- HAPPIER, HEALTHIER AND MORE DETERMINED THAN EVER

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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin lies on the ground after being injured during the second quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Seattle, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin lies on the ground after being injured during the second quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Seattle, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Percy HARVIN would sit in the training room, taunted by the music that wafted in through the walls. He could see just enough from his vantage point -- players going through the rigours of training camp, fans rooting for them -- to add insult to injury.

"I would be staring out the window -- I wanted to be out there so bad," Harvin said. "I'm walking around and can't believe it, that instead of starting my career over here, I'm starting on the injury list. That's no way anyone wants to start the season, so that was very depressing for me."

Flash forward a year, and Harvin is just about the happiest player in Seahawks camp. Fully healthy again, he's flying around in workouts, showing off the blazing speed that made his acquisition from the Vikings in March 2013 so enticing in the first place.

"This is the best I've felt in a long, long time," he said.

Harvin was supposed to be the missing piece to put the Seahawks over the top. But a hip injury at the outset of camp sidelined him. It was one year ago Wednesday the team announced Harvin would need surgery to repair a tear in the labrum of his hip.

The Seahawks, of course, got over the top anyway, and Harvin was able to make an indelible contribution. Limited to just one game in the regular season, he all but clinched the Super Bowl victory by taking the second-half kickoff for an 88-yard touchdown.

Turns out it was a called shot.

"At halftime, we came in there and I'm just walking around. I'm saying to myself, this has to be my time," he said. "The lineman all started getting up on the sidelines, I just ran by them and I said, 'Man, you all don't worry about coming in on offence. I got this.' They kind of looked at me crazy, then when I ran it back they all just looked at me stupid. That was a surreal moment for me."

And a galvanizing one. Instead of heading into a long, uncertain off-season with doubts still lingering about his health, Harvin got the answers he needed. Though he had played in the playoff game against New Orleans before being sidelined by a concussion, Harvin still felt restricted. The Super Bowl run freed his mind.

"I just wasn't feeling all the way to myself again," he said. "Once I was able to do that and score, and was able to show my burst and a little bit of cutting, I kind of told myself I was able to take that next step."

That meant a spring and summer spent in the Seattle area, not only attending OTAs and mini-camps, but also completely restructuring his nutritional program.

When camp opened Friday, Harvin had a bounce in his step he hadn't felt since his heyday with the Vikings. That's what happens when you don't feel "gooey," the term Harvin uses to describe his legs last year.

It went beyond that, however. Harvin also believes he's mentally stronger. His health wasn't the only issue he was dealing with last year. Harvin's girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy in June 2013, just before training camp, and his father was critically ill during the season. It was a lot to deal with when you're already frustrated by the tribulations of rehab.

Now Harvin says his outlook is completely different.

"My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer, so he wasn't in pain any more," he said. "That was something I could kind of lay to rest and get my mind right. This year, I can honestly say, I'm just so happy now, because everything is kind of out the way. Seeing my kid grow up every day, everything is good."

Harvin says his confidence is "tremendously high right now," and so are the Seahawks' expectations for the contribution he can make in 2014. All those dreams they had of utilizing Harvin's explosiveness -- which motivated them to give up three draft picks, including their 2013 first-rounder, then sign Harvin to a six-year, $67-million extension -- are back on the table.

Heath Farwell, Harvin's teammate for two years in Minnesota, calls him "the most amazing playmaker in the game."

Kippy Brown, the Seahawks' wide receivers coach, doesn't hesitate when asked what Harvin's presence for a full season would mean.

"Oh, everything," Brown said. "He's a dimension you don't understand until you see it with the naked eye, and then you understand what he can do. Speed, toughness, power. He's got that. That's what he brings."

And now Harvin is out of the training room and back in the mix, he's ready to unleash those talents regularly, not just in sporadic flashes.

"It just feels good to come out here with a clean slate," he said. "My health is good, so now I can just focus on football. I'm not worried about holding back."

 

-- The Seattle Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 4, 2014 A1

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