No Harvin, no problem, same as always
January, 17, 2014
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com
RENTON, Wash. -- Never in Seattle Seahawks history has one man done so little and been talked about so much.
Percy Harvin will not play Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. So what?
I’m not blaming Harvin, the multi-talented receiver who hasn’t been able to get healthy or stay healthy all season.
But the Seattle receivers have heard the same questions everyone else hears week after week. Will Harvin play? Can he make a difference? Can they win a tough game without him?
The receiving corps is sick and tired of it. They are up to their chin straps in Harvin questions and how he could make them better. It’s ad nauseam at this point.
Guess what? The Seahawks receivers, sans Harvin, are not The Three Stooges. You would think the team was using three guys at the receiver spots who were playing shuffleboard at a retirement community last week.
“We hear it all the time that we’re not worth squat,” receiver Golden Tate said this week. “But at the end of the day, we make the plays that we need to make to help us win. We’re playing in the NFC championship. You can’t do that without us.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. To a man, the Seattle receivers feel for Harvin. They understand what he’s going through. Doug Baldwin and Harvin have become close friends.
“It’s tough because we’re all close to Percy and we all love him as a teammate,” Baldwin said. “It hurts us to not have him out there on the field. We know how badly he wants to be out there.
“But like we consistently say, we have guys around [quarterback] Russell Wilson, weapons on the outside, that can make plays and that have been making plays all season long. I don’t think it’s going to be much of a hit, production-wise.”
Baldwin, Tate and Jermaine Kearse are proud men who have to be a little perturbed about the endless Harvin talk. They won’t admit it publicly, but they take it personally. This team, with these receivers, has won 14 games without Harvin.
That’s right, I said without him. Yes, he played sparingly in two games and showed his amazing skills, but the Seahawks would have won both those games without him. And they can win Sunday's without him. Tate and Baldwin, in particular, are on a mission to prove it.
Moments after announcing that Harvin wouldn’t play Sunday, coach Pete Carroll came to the defense of his receivers.
“It’s a really competitive group,” Carroll said. “They’re very athletic, clutch, tough, and they block well. They get after it. They do everything we need them to do. You never know which one of them is going to have a big game. And they can make the big catches at crucial times."
Look for them to make some more big plays on Sunday. Tate has enjoyed the best season of his career, catching 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. He also is one of the league’s best punt returners, averaging 11.5 yards per return.
Baldwin caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. His ability to make acrobatic sideline catches in key situations was the difference in several games this season, including the playoff game last week against New Orleans. And Kearse has four TDs in only 22 receptions.
“I’m around these guys every single day,” Tate said. “I see the plays that they make every day. I honestly feel like if you put any of our receivers somewhere else, they would catch 90 balls and be well over 1,000 yards. But that’s not how this offense works.”
The Seattle offense is centered on its power running game with Marshawn Lynch. They throw the ball far less than most NFL teams.
“The good thing about it is we’re all unselfish players,” Tate said. “We want to win, so we just do our jobs. We take a lot of pride in blocking for Marshawn, and when the big plays come, I feel like more times than not, we’re going to come up with the big ball.”
But you wouldn’t know it from all the talk of the savior, Mr. Harvin. Frankly, it’s become almost comical -- not that his injuries are anything to laugh about.
A week doesn't go by when I'm not asked at least 30 times if Harvin will play. It’s a question on every radio interview. Anyone who has anything to do with this team hears the Harvin questions every day. And it’s gotten tiresome.
Look, Harvin has worked hard to come back from major hip surgery in August. He now has a concussion issue to deal with, and it’s been frustrating for him, to say the least.
Sure, the Seahawks could use him Sunday. He could help them against one of the best defenses in the league. He could return kickoffs. He could be a spark to a passing game that has struggled in the past five games.
All of that is true. But what’s equally true is this team achieved the best record in the league this season and made it to the NFC title game -- without Harvin.
The receivers are a talented, underrated group who can perform at a level that enables Seattle to win this game, and the Super Bowl, whether Harvin takes another snap this season or not.