EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While most of the Minnesota Vikings held an optional practice at the team's headquarters, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson could only watch from the sidelines while they work their way back from injuries.
The two friends ran up and down hills for conditioning and worked on balance in a sand pit, challenging each other to recover as quickly as possible and get back to the business of turning this proud franchise around after two straight last-place finishes in the NFC North.
Harvin's shoulder injury is considered minor, especially in comparison to the torn knee ligaments Peterson suffered in December. In fact, if Harvin had his way, he would have been on the field on Wednesday.
"I feel great. No limitations. Got all my strength back. It's just precaution," said Harvin, who had surgery in April. "They don't want me to fall or do anything crazy right now during these drills. Hopefully next week I should be back out here."
One of the most dynamic slot receivers in the game, Harvin caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also finished third on the team with 345 yards rushing and returned a kick for a touchdown, one of the lone bright spots during a miserable 3-13 season.
When the season came to an end, Harvin vowed to be a leader this offseason in arranging workouts and making sure teammates showed up to Minnesota when the coaches asked. His efforts seemed to have hit home, with only veterans Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and John Sullivan not at camp on Wednesday. Greenway was tending to a family situation and Allen has preferred to work out on his own in the offseason in an Arizona program that helped him get 22 sacks last year.
To see Harvin on the sideline even though he could not practice meant a lot to coach Leslie Frazier.
"I gave him a big hug when he showed up," Frazier said with a smile. "He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day, because I wasn't sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, 'I'm in town, what doctors do I have to see tomorrow morning?'
"I texted him back, 'Is this the Percy Harvin? The real Percy Harvin?' So just great for our meetings, great for our coaches to see him around."
The former first-round draft pick is entering his fourth NFL season, and he's been working with second-year quarterback Christian Ponder and a host of new faces in the Vikings receiver corps in the classroom to get everyone on the same page.
"It means a lot for sure," Ponder said. "Obviously he's not able to play right now, but he's in the meetings, he's in rehab and doing as much as he can. He's hanging around the guys. He's helping out the younger receivers. He's being vocal. We love having him here. I think it shows a lot that he's such a great team player and he's such a great guy that he's spending his time up here when he doesn't have to be."
Harvin said he was injured in Week 6 or 7 last season, and the pain would cause him to miss a play or two in games and sit out some practices during the year. He tried to let it heal on its own in the offseason, but opted for surgery after he felt more discomfort while lifting weights.
"I didn't know exactly to what extent it was so they looked at it and decided to go in there and scope it out," he said. "So I feel great, I'm kind of glad I got it done so now I have no restrictions as far as on the field. So I'm real positive."
Harvin said he hopes to convince the coaches that he's OK and join practices as early as next week.
"I can't wait until he gets back so I can see some of that speed everybody's been talking about," new receiver Jerome Simpson said.
Simpson has already seen what kind of speed Peterson has. The star running back is ahead of schedule in his rehab, and he's already been racing some of his teammates at the Vikings' practice facility.
"I got to run against Adrian and he's looking good," said Simpson, who beat Peterson in the race. "It was neck-and-neck there. We're always talking a little trash back and forth to each other, but it was a great competition."
Peterson beat a few of his other teammates, an impressive feat given that he is only about six months removed from major knee surgery. He beat Harvin in their runs up a steep hill twice on Wednesday, as well.
"He's amazing. I told him the other day I don't think he's human," Harvin said. "Two weeks ago he beat a couple guys in a race. When I got here yesterday, I told them guys they should be embarrassed."