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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Harvin still a mystery man for Broncos

By Jeff Legwold

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- In a world where planning is routinely Job 1, where preparation is a must and the unknown is simply considered unacceptable, the Denver Broncos know the Seattle Seahawks have the potential to pull the curtain back on Super Bowl XLVIII's biggest surprise.

Percy Harvin
The Broncos don't have much to go on regarding Percy Harvin, who has played just 38 offensive snaps all season. The Seahawks receiver is also a special teams threat.
The Broncos have done their due diligence this week, in both their on-field practices as well as their classroom work. And while they have plenty of seasoned hands in their defensive staff's meeting rooms, they still can't say, for sure, what the Seahawks will do with Percy Harvin in Sunday's game. That's because the Seahawks haven't been able to figure that out for themselves until now.

"We don't really have a lot of film on him," Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "We do know that he can line up in multiple positions. He can hurt teams from all of those positions, so I think we'll start to prepare for him on kickoff and punt return because that's usually the first place he makes his mark, is on kickoff [returns]. So we've got to make sure we get him stopped on kickoff, but as a receiver, he's just an explosive guy. They put him in the slot to try to get him away from press coverage, and I think we definitely have to try to get our hands on him."

The Seahawks had big plans for Harvin when they signed him to a six-year, $67 million contract. But before they could do too much with him in their offense, Harvin had hip surgery Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum.

He missed the first 10 games of the season before he took part in 19 plays Nov. 17 against the Minnesota Vikings. Harvin had one catch, for 17 yards, and a 58-yard kickoff return before he aggravated his surgically repaired hip. He neither played nor practiced again until the week before the Seahawks' divisional round game against the New Orleans Saints.

Harvin then participated in just 19 more plays before he suffered a concussion against the Saints and did not play against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Harvin has practiced all week with the Seahawks as they have gone through their pre-Super Bowl work.

"I'm going to be really blunt and straightforward," Harvin said. "If it wasn't for my teammates being there for me the way they were, I might've just shut it down. 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. Like anyone has ever had hip surgery and came back in the same season. A lot of frustration came with it. I probably would've been done with the season if it wasn't for my teammates."

The Broncos have essentially been left with the 38 snaps worth of offense to review, with the understanding they cannot let Harvin loose on special teams, either. Harvin often lines up in the slot, when in the lineup, and with the current personnel in the Broncos defense, that could put him squarely across from Champ Bailey at times.

Bailey's return to the defense in Week 16 against the Houston Texans has allowed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio more options in coverage as he tries to find the matchups that work in a secondary without cornerback Chris Harris (injured reserve, knee). Bailey played largely in the nickel only in the last two regular-season games and in the divisional-round win over the Chargers.

But when Harris left the game against the Chargers with the knee injury, the Broncos were forced to make adjustments. In the AFC Championship game win over the New England Patriots, Bailey started on the outside in the base defense and then moved into the slot when the Patriots went to a three-wide receiver look or opened the formation.

"You have to know your history on Percy Harvin," Broncos cornerback Dominique 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."

Added Bailey, "He's just dangerous. We have to do the work, see what we have on him and be prepared for everything. You know they're going to use him and you know what people like to do with him. Just be ready and play it."