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Vikings prepare for Percy Harvin's return to Minnesota with Jets

12/3/2014

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Percy Harvin's first game against the Minnesota Vikings wound up being the only one he play in the regular season last year and just one of five he would play at home for the Seattle Seahawks. Harvin worked his way back from a hip injury in time to face the Vikings -- who ended their acrimonious relationship with Harvin in a March 2013 trade -- and returned his first kickoff 58 yards. With the Seahawks not on the Vikings' schedule this season, it seemed safe to assume the Vikings wouldn't be seeing their former wideout at all this season.

Now, of course, Harvin is with the New York Jets, who acquired him in an October trade from a Seahawks team that was ready to move on 19 months after giving up three draft picks to get the enigmatic wide receiver. And not only will Harvin see the Vikings again, he'll be making his return to Minnesota this weekend when the New York Jets travel to TCF Bank Stadium.

The question with Harvin is always twofold: where he'll be on the field, and how much he can be counted on once he's there. The first part of the Harvin equation, at least, will occupy plenty of the Vikings' time this week. Since he's been with the Jets, he's lined up primarily at the flanker position, getting a chance to be more of a traditional receiver than he's been in the past. But the familiar components of Harvin's game have been there, too: jet sweeps, bubble screens and backfield handoffs. The Vikings are going through the week preparing for the full complement of Harvin roles.

"We’ll know where he is," coach Mike Zimmer said. "They might have three backs and two receivers in there and he might be lined up as the back. They might have three tight ends and two receivers and he’s the back. He could line up anywhere."

As for whether Harvin will have an extra edge for Sunday's game? It's difficult to say, since the Vikings' coaching regime and many of the players have changed since the receiver last played for the team in 2012.

"You better bring your big boy shoes," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "He's as good as anybody getting off tackles and making people miss. We know the intensity he plays with. We know who he is. He can be an angry dude sometimes. Love him, though."

Harvin feuded with head coaches Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier during his time in Minnesota, screaming at Frazier on the sideline in Seattle in Nov. 2012, after Christian Ponder missed him on a short pass in what turned out to be the final game Harvin would play for the Vikings. Greenway said Vikings player never saw Harvin's dust-ups with coaches, adding "it's hard to speak on that when you're not there or you don't see it," but added Harvin was a great teammate when he was in Minnesota.

A year after winning a Super Bowl, Harvin is on a 2-10 team that might have a new head coach after this season. There is no guaranteed money in his salary for 2015, and he could be on the way out after this season. In his time there, though, Harvin has been a pleasure to work with, coach Rex Ryan said.

"We brought him in with a clean slate, so to speak," Ryan said. "What's happened in his past is with him. We don't really bring up the past. We just talk about his situation here."

As he returns to Minnesota, Harvin figures to be as difficult to solve as ever. That can be a blessing and a curse with the receiver, but the Vikings know what Harvin is capable of when he's at the peak of his powers.

"They do everything with him," Zimmer said. "They put him in the backfield as a back, they run reverses with him, they run screens with him, they run pretty much everything. He’s definitely a focal point of what they’re doing."