Hartman: Harvin has skills of the great ones

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 25, 2012 - 6:55 AM

 Vikings assistant coach George Stewart lauds the wideout's versatility, toughness and raw speed.

Maybe no one is more qualified to judge pass catchers than Vikings wide receivers coach George Stewart, who is in the midst of his 24th season coaching in the NFL.

He worked with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in San Francisco, helping Owens to be selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2000-2002. He also mentored Falcons star Roddy White during White's first two seasons in Atlanta (2005 and 2006), when Stewart was wide receivers coach there.

The thing that makes a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver, Stewart says, is that they have qualities that separate them from other greats, a quality he believes is apparent in Vikings star Percy Harvin.

"It's hard to compare Percy, and I'm not a person who likes to compare, but for what he's doing for our football team right now, he's doing an outstanding job," Stewart said. "He's such a versatile player, as you know. He does a great job of returning kicks and as a receiver."

While Harvin has played multiple roles for the Vikings this season, including rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown and also posting 492 kickoff return yards and a touchdown, it's at wide receiver where he has truly put things together.

Harvin is on pace for more than 1,300 yards receiving and 121 receptions. Those projections would surpass his previous career bests -- 87 receptions and 967 yards in 2011 -- by a wide margin.

"I've coached a lot of great ones, Jerry [Rice], Terrell Owens, Tim Brown, a lot of people know those types of guys are all great football players because they all were different and all brought different things," Stewart said. "Percy brings something different than those other guys had, because he has so much toughness and so much raw speed.

"He's a real good one. It's hard not to disclaim, of course, because in different eras there are different players, different times, different people, but he is very special. All those guys are very special, he's another one. He has the complete package in a football player."

What is it that makes Harvin so different from other wideouts playing today?

"It's God-given," Stewart said. "He has a special set of athletic skills that I think other people in the league are envious of because he does have a skill set that is unbelievable. It is hard to compare him, because he brings so much to the table. The other thing I will say about Percy Harvin is his will, his effort, his ability to play the game of football is very unique."

Peterson back in shape

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had a fantastic game in the 21-14 victory over the Cardinals last weekend, rushing 23 times for 153 yards and one touchdown. The former Oklahoma great was asked if this performance meant he is back to pre-knee injury form.

"I can just control what I can control and that's pushing each week to help my team get a win and that will get us to our ultimate goal of winning this division," Peterson said.

"What did you think? I think I'm getting better each week, getting stronger, each week I'm getting stronger. I felt pretty good.

"[It was] 100 percent as far as the knee, I'm a little banged up but it comes with the territory, especially at the running back position. You have to be able to mentally push through that.

"I always say hey, you can use me as you like. I'm going to play with the same effort on each snap. A lot of guys contributed to the win on defense and special teams. It felt good to get the win at home."

Use AP in red zone

Harvin was asked about Peterson's performance, especially when the team had a chance to score early.

"In the red zone we want to get it to Adrian, that's one thing we kind of got away from and want to get back to," Harvin said. "He's starting to shake back into form. Anytime we get in the red zone, our first play is to run [No.] 28 and if that doesn't work, try it again and if that doesn't work, try it again and then maybe trying something else.

"If he's not 100 [percent] then I'd say he was 99.8, [vs. the Cardinals]. I saw him getting back to his normal self."

Nelson ready for start

Gophers coach Jerry Kill explained how quarterback Philip Nelson, who going to be redshirted as a freshman, prepared for his first start against Wisconsin last Saturday.

"It was a situation where he took a lot of reps in practice," Kill said. "MarQueis Gray is not 100 percent. We need MarQueis, and I visited with him [about] keeping him on the perimeter and being able to get some play out of him. It's a lot easier to run with a bad ankle on the perimeter than it is on the inside and throwing the football and handing it off.

"We're not physically gifted up front enough yet to just run the ball straight downhill on a Wisconsin football team, and probably several teams coming up."

Kill added that Gray's replacement, sophomore Max Shortell, had gotten dinged up the previous week against Northwestern and had tingling in his shoulder and hands Tuesday of last week.

"I said, 'Hey we need some durability in this thing,' so we took Philip and he got the majority of the reps and we made that decision," Kill explained. "I talked to Philip and [quarterbacks coach] Jimmy [Zebrowski] talked to the quarterbacks at 8:30 on Friday night and and I talked to Philip at about 9:30 on Friday night [to inform him he would start]."

Jones on Tobacco Road

Apple Valley point guard Tyus Jones reported to Rivals.com about his recruiting visit, along with family members, to North Carolina and Duke last weekend.

About North Carolina, he said: "I have a very good relationship with [coach Roy Williams]. He just told me about their program and how good of a school that is. He was just talking about how talented his team is and how important having a good point guard to him is."

About his visit to Duke: "[Coach Mike Krzyzewski] just thinks I fit in really well with their system there and he thinks he can help me out with my game because of how I play."

Jones also said he was impressed with both North Carolina's facilities and basketball hall of fame, and of Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, which he found inspiring, if surprisingly small.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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