Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Why is Percy Harvin a part-time player?

By Kevin Seifert

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As we discussed in Tuesday's Stock Watch post, Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin was on the field for 30 of the team's 65 offensive plays in last Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the season, Harvin has played about half of the Vikings' snaps (57 of 111), according to video tracking from Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, and on Wednesday it seemed fair to ask coach Leslie Frazier why.

Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin has been on the field for less than half of the Vikings' offensive snaps this season.
The Vikings' offense, after all, has scored only 30 points through two games and ranks No. 27 among NFL teams in total yards. Wouldn't it make sense to have your most explosive pass-catcher on the field more often?

"We know what Percy is capable of doing," Frazier said. "He's a big-time playmaker, whether it's on kickoff return or playing wide receiver. It's just a matter of our using his strengths for our greatest advantage, for our team's greatest advantage, picking our spots when we do that. I think we're taking the right approach with Percy, with his reps and the packages we use him in. It's the right approach."

Frazier didn't really explain why it's the right approach, but he did rule out a few reasons. He said coaches have no concerns about Harvin's downfield run blocking, saying: "He's a very good run-blocker [and is] surprising some of those linebackers and [defensive backs] when he comes back and cracks." Frazier also said there are no concerns about Harvin's health, including migraine headaches that plagued him in 2009 and 2010 but appear to have subsided this year.

"We have certain packages where we want to feature him," Frazier said, "and not necessarily overuse him, but use him to help our football team."

I would understand that sentiment if the Vikings were using Harvin as a full-time kickoff and punt returner, as the Chicago Bears essentially do with Devin Hester. But Harvin is splitting kickoff return duties with Lorenzo Booker. Marcus Sherels, meanwhile, is returning punts.

I can't discount the possibility of some unknown and pressing explanation for making Harvin a part-time player, perhaps one that Frazier prefers to keep to himself. Absent of that wild card, however, I just don't get it.

At the very least, Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave appear too caught up in building a scheme and constructing a template for future success. On some teams, it might make sense to use Harvin as a multi-purpose returner/receiver/running back for use in selected packages. But on this team, now and in the foreseeable future, Harvin is one of the top two scoring threats on the roster.

The Vikings' new offense deserves some patience as it plays catch-up from a lost offseason. But the Vikings also merit scrutiny for letting one of their best players stand on the sideline far too often during a 0-2 start.