NEWARK, N.J. – The Vikings haven’t been on the NFL’s grandest stage since Jan. 9, 1977. But former draft picks that tumble to them in the first round, become superstar receivers, wear out their welcome and get traded in their prime do tend to show up in Super Bowls with other teams.
Tuesday, it was Seattle’s Percy Harvin, the No. 22 overall pick in 2009, who sat looking out at an avalanche of jostling reporters during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at Prudential Center Arena.
The Seahawks’ 60-minute session was about 16 minutes old when along came Randy Moss, the No. 21 overall pick in 1998, to pump some life into an old friend. Moss was the original Vikings receiver with the bad-boy image. Heck, the future Hall of Famer wore out his welcome not once (2005), but twice (2010) in Minnesota. Each time, he later showed up on this ultimate stage, once as a record-setting receiver with the Patriots and last year as a bit player in his final season in San Francisco.
“Percy Harvin! What’s up, brah?” Moss said as Harvin’s eyes lit up like a child spotting Mickey Mouse sitting on Santa Claus’ lap. “Randy Moss, Fox Sports. What’s up, brah?”
“What’s going on, big dog?” Harvin said.
“Hey, man, I missed you all season, brah,” Moss said. “I know the 12th man, the whole Seattle fanbase, missed ya. How do you feel you can impact this game and bring this thing home to Seattle?”
“In different phases of the game,” Harvin said. “The first thing, I definitely think on special teams I can be a factor in the game. And I think with the four of us receivers on the field, along with [running back] Marshawn Lynch, it’s going to be pick your poison on who they want to stop.”
“They” would be the Broncos, winners of the AFC and possessors of the NFL’s first 600-point offense and soon-to-be five-time league MVP quarterback Peyton Manning.
Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary is the strength of a dominant defense that ranks No. 1 in multiple categories, including points allowed (14.4 per game) and interceptions (28). But the theory being promoted this week is that Harvin is the “X-factor” the run-oriented Seahawks will need to bolster a 26th-ranked passing attack and keep Manning and his record 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns on the sideline.
Although he has played only 39 snaps in two games this season because of hip surgery and a concussion, Harvin bristles at the notion that he is some kind of gameday gimmick.
“I keep hearing this X- factor talk, but this is not my first rodeo,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of football and I’ve been effective doing that. I’ve been told I’m full-go and to be ready. If I’m on the field, I’m a threat. I don’t have any goals other than to go out there and try to dominate like I always do.”
Harvin said the hip injury that limited him to 20 regular-season snaps — all of them in a 40-21 win over the Vikings — is feeling strong again. He also has been cleared from the concussion that limited his postseason play to 19 snaps in the divisional playoffs against New Orleans.
“There’s a whole bunch of stuff we can do with Percy,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who also coached Harvin in the same capacity with the Vikings in 2009 and ’10. “But it’s not all of a sudden going to change our offense and Percy Harvin is going to become a one-man show. I don’t think he’s going to come out of the game and have as many touches as Marshawn.”
He’s got a point. After all, Harvin hasn’t played a full NFL game since Oct. 25, 2012. That’s 25 regular-season games ago.
‘Couldn’t be happier’
One thing is clear, however. Harvin is much happier — and richer because of a six-year, $67 million deal — since the Vikings dealt the then-disgruntled receiver to Seattle. Of course, the Vikings aren’t complaining either. The bounty of draft picks that they received — including a 2013 first-rounder and a 2014 third-rounder — currently tilts the transaction heavily in their favor.
“I won’t compare the two teams,” Harvin said. “I’m just happy with where I’m at right now in Seattle. I have great teammates, great coaches. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Reading between the lines, however, it’s pretty clear how Harvin feels about everything that came after Brett Favre retired following the 2010 season and before Harvin met Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Harvin raved on and on about both players Tuesday, but chose not to discuss Christian Ponder, his teammate in 2011 and ’12.
“Until I met Russell,” said Harvin, “I never met anyone who prepared to play a game the way Brett did.”
Learning from Randy
Harvin does remain close to several ex-teammates, including Adrian Peterson, whom Harvin said has texted him multiple times since Seattle won the NFC.
“It means the world to me to hear from him,” Harvin said.
Harvin also agreed with a recent ESPN poll of 320 players that picked Peterson as the player who is most deserving of reaching his first Super Bowl.
“No question,” he said. “Just playing with him and seeing how he works and how he cares for his teammates. He’s a player who’s definitely deserving of it. Hopefully, one of these days I can see him put the ring on.”
Harvin also gushes when talking about Moss, with whom he played only four games in 2010.
“I learned so much from him that words can’t express it,” Harvin said. “He basically told me how to run routes and control yourself. With me, I’ve of course had a lot of speed. But he taught me how to control that speed and knowing when to use it and when not to use it. I definitely learned a lot from that guy, and I think a lot of young receivers can, too.”
And with that, Moss smiled and walked away.
“Good luck to you, brah,” Moss said over his shoulder.
“Good seeing you, big homey,” Harvin said.