SEATTLE — Tarvaris Jackson knew the reaction would be even better than the return. He played with Percy Harvin before. He knows the Harvin effect.
So when the new star Seahawks wide receiver burst free for a 58-yard kickoff return just before halftime, Jackson grinned and watched everyone who was watching Harvin. He saw a CenturyLink Field crowd of 68,235 erupt, almost in rhythm with the Seahawks sideline. It looked like the most enthusiastic group dance ever. Harvin had done the spectacular in his Seattle debut, and Jackson looked on like a proud event planner.
“I was happy watching everybody responding to him and understanding that now, officially, he is a part of the team,” said Jackson, the Seahawks backup quarterback, who played with Harvin in Minnesota in 2009 and 2010. “Get ready to be amazed.”
Get ready to make “wow” your favorite word.
Get ready for random bursts of glee.
Harvin is a Seahawk, at last.
After a year on the mend, after two surgeries, after changing teams and signing a $67 million contract, Harvin returned to NFL action Sunday. He played sparingly in the Seahawks’ 41-20 victory over Minnesota. It was only a sip of what he could do. Still, his talent left you laughing so hard that you spit out your drink.
He touched the football twice, and he made two ridiculous plays.
His first Seahawk reception will always be remembered for its degree of difficulty: a sensational, juggling 17-yard catch on third down to extend the drive. Four plays later, Marshawn Lynch scored a 1-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 17-10 lead in the second quarter.
Then Harvin got his hands on that kickoff.
He had been lobbying to return kickoffs all week, but coach Pete Carroll was hesitant. Harvin missed the Seahawks’ first 10 games after having hip surgery, and Carroll needed to be sure Harvin was ready.
“It’s been a work in progress all week long,” Harvin said. “I’ve been having some of the teammates yell at him, some of the coaching staff. But he came to me before the game, and he let me know that he didn’t feel real comfortable with me doing it this game, but I kept drilling him and drilling him.”
After wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, Harvin’s replacement on kickoff returns, left the game with a concussion, Carroll relented. With 48 seconds left before halftime, the coach shouted at Harvin, “Get your (tail) in there!”
Harvin didn’t disappoint. He found a massive hole on the right side and used every bit of his 4.3-second 40-yard dash speed. For a second, he found himself near the sideline with only Vikings kicker Blair Walsh standing in his way. Walsh did just enough to slow Harvin before Marcus Sherels made the tackle.
The Seahawks took over at the Minnesota 46-yard line and needed only five plays to reach the end zone via Russell Wilson’s 19-yard pass to Doug Baldwin.
“I saw the kicker, and I was trying to contemplate whether I wanted to run him over or run around him,” Harvin said. “So I just tried to make the best play that I could. He made a great play in making me hesitate a little bit.”
Harvin was on the field for about one-third of the Seahawks’ 50 offensive plays, but you saw a glimpse of his impact. The respect he commands is a game-changer. It was especially noticeable on a 44-yard pass to Baldwin, in which a Vikings safety cheated Harvin’s way, and Baldwin ran a precise route.
“He’s a special dude,” Jackson said. “You list him as a receiver, but he runs like a running back. But it’s more than just the plays he makes running. He blocks guys. He commands so much defensive attention. He just adds another dimension to our offense.”
Harvin also brings the required toughness for a Seahawks player. They’ve built this championship-caliber roster with relentless athletes, and Harvin certainly belongs on that list. He revealed after the game that, in addition to the hip surgery this past summer and season-ending ankle injury he suffered last November with Minnesota, he had an appendectomy last December during which doctors discovered a tumor in his appendix.
He’s healthy now, though. And he’s determined to be the impact player that the Seahawks signed.
“Today was the No. 1 test that everyone wanted to see,” Harvin said. “I don’t see any more setbacks. I’m looking to take off from here.”
Said Wilson: “I think I’m the ultimate competitor. He’s on a whole ’nother level.”
Harvin is a Seahawk, at last.
He’s not a mystery. He’s not the greatest Seahawks wide receiver never to play a game. He’s not the subject of news-conference questions that Carroll can’t answer.
He’s real. He’s here. He’s yours.
“I guarantee there’s plenty more to come,” Jackson said. “I guarantee it.”
Get ready to dance in celebration, often.