Great Returns?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 16, 2009 – 7:45 am

Since the Vikings drafted explosive and dynamic WR Percy Harvin in April’s draft, everyone has had visions of gadget plays, bubble screens and the Wildcat formation dancing in their heads. And this is rightfully so, perhaps, because there’s no denying that a player of Harvin’s design has the potential to improve an offense by making it more dynamic.

But it doesn’t look like Harvin and the Vikings are going to focus entirely on offense. In order to maximize their return on the investment of drafting Harvin, the Vikings are going to use Harvin the kick return game.

During recent minicamps and OTAs, Harvin has been among several players in both the kick return and punt return rotations. But it’s not as easy as just finding the fastest or quickest guys and throwing out on the field to return kicks. Although it’s easy to take catching kickoffs and punts for granted, it’s actually not as easy as one might think. And it’s the most important part of the return. Tremendous skill at dodging defenders and speeding down the sideline can be negated by an inability to secure the ball.

“I think naturally catching kickoffs is easier for guys in general,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said. “He (Harvin) has done a good job with that. Tracking the football; he’s got a good innate feel for that.”

Catching punts, however, has been a little bit different of a story for the 1st-year pro. He’s had a few drops here and there, but during recent workouts it’s been evident that once he gets the ball in his hands, look out.

“He’s going to need to field a bunch of punts as we go to training camp for us to feel comfortable and for him to feel completely comfortable, because all it takes is one on the ground (to cost you),” Childress explained. “You want to field every one of them. He certainly has the skills and ability. I just think he’ll take some work during training camp.”

Harvin says he’s received feedback from the coaching staff and the former Florida Gator playmaker seems insistent on improving between now and training camp.

“Of course the punts our more difficult with them being so high; I’m not used to them being kicked that high,” Harvin said. “But the coaches have said I’ve made big strides and that my biggest problem is the last couple of feet when the ball is coming down and being able to judge it.”

OTAs concluded late last week, but rookies will be in town for a few more days before they head to the rookie symposium and then enjoy a break until training camp. And while Harvin plans to unwind a little bit between now and camp, he also said he plans to bring a bag of NFL footballs with him to Gainesville to he can work on fielding punts and kickoffs.

“I’ll practice it over the break and come back a little better than when I left,” Harvin says.

Sounds like the Vikings will have great returns on their 1st-round investment.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 1 Comment »