EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Percy Harvin is off to the best start of his four-year NFL career with 30 catches, fourth in the league entering Monday night.
His importance to the Minnesota Vikings has never been higher and he offered a bit of insight Monday to what caused his displeasure during minicamp this summer when he expressed his unhappiness with the team, reportedly had asked for a trade and missed afternoon practice of the mandatory camp before later returning.
"I think it was just the identity of our offense," Harvin said Monday. "Just not only me, just guys knowing exactly what the coaches are asking of them on a week-to-week basis. Not playing one position one week, and come in and not totally having a grasp on what they're asking for the next week. So, I think, (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave has done a great job -- I said it all offseason -- of putting (tight end Kyle) Rudolph in great situations. We got a package for Jerome (Simpson), which you've seen, where we'll take shots downfield. So everybody, I think, knows their role, knows what the coaches expect them to do. Now, you can just sit back and try to do it at the highest level you can."
There's little to complain about these days for Harvin or Minnesota. Harvin has 30 catches for 299 yards as the go-to playmaker in the Vikings' offense. He also leads the league in all-purpose yards with 698 combined yards rushing, receiving and returning. He's taken 11 carries for 54 yards and is third in the NFL with a 38.3-yard average on kickoff returns after taking the opening kickoff Sunday against the Detroit Lions 105 yards for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is 15th in the league with 90 scored through four games, a 22.5-point average. The Vikings are 18th in offensive yards with 1,287 yards, a 321.75-yard average.
Much of the success has come by putting the ball in the hands of Harvin and letting the explosive, versatile receiver do the rest. Sunday's matchup provided the contrast of Harvin, Minnesota's top receiver, against Detroit's All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson, considered by most the best receiver in the league.
When talk revolves around the top receivers and No. 1-type receivers, Harvin is rarely in the mix with the likes of Johnson, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and others. Harvin, who could be looking for a new contract with his current deal set to expire following next year, knows he's not looked upon in the same way. Harvin is making 915,000 this season and 1.55 million next year.
"Since I've been in high school, I've never been considered the No. 1 receiver on my team," Harvin said. "That doesn't bother me at all, not one bit. I feel like I'm a game-changer. Every time I get the ball in my hands, I try to make a play. (As) long as I'm doing that at a high level, you can call me a third or fourth receiver, it doesn't matter."
Harvin knows it's often the taller receivers that earn the No. 1 label.
"The style, they like the 6-foot-2 guys, 6-foot-3, the bigger guys," Harvin said. "But there are a lot of No. 1 receivers who are the small guys. You know, DeSean Jackson, people like that. That's how people view it."
He might not have the size of Johnson, but Harvin became the focus of the Lions' defense Sunday, proving how valuable he is. Coming off his best season last year with 87 catches, 1,832 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns, and off to a better start this season, Harvin is getting quite a bit of attention.
"I kind of want to go back to that way," Harvin said when asked if he liked it better without defenses focusing on him. "But, at the same time, I''m kind of happy that I'm getting some of the respect. Like I said, it only helps our team, cause then we get those one-on-one matchups where, if it's not pass interference, those are 50, 45- yard catches down the field, big chunks that we're going to need. It all works out."
Greenway expecting a fine: Vikings' linebacker Chad Greenway said Monday he is expecting a fine for his unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.
Greenway left his feet and hit Johnson, who had gone up high for a pass, in the helmet. Greenway apologized to Johnson, too.
"Yeah, obviously I didn't mean any intent to hurt him or anything," Greenway said. "I was just trying to play the game. Once I saw he was in a vulnerable position I tried to pull off a little late obviously. Glad he wasn't hurt and I hope he's good."
Greenway did pull his hands back after the hit, but was already too late in hitting Johnson, who was defenseless in the air.
"It's like in a basketball game, I sort of wanted to pull my hands back thinking I didn't follow through with the tackle is more why I was trying to," Greenway said. "It made it look like I was real guilty, which is fine. I was guilty I hit him. I was trying to (show) that I didn't finish the hit, I tried to pull off. Just something about being a defensive player in the NFL right now. That's what it's going to be. So you've got to expect it."
Robinson's penalty: Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson was also called for unnecessary roughness when it was ruled he lifted Detroit receiver Nate Burleson on the ground and body slammed him during the second quarter.
The Vikings don't believe Robinson's tackle deserved a penalty.
"That's one of those we will send into the league and get some clarification on because we'd like to get some clarification on that one, I know I would," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Seemed like a tackle; just seemed like a tackle. Now a hard tackle, but it is football so we are going to get some clarification from the league."
Frazier said he has never heard anything from the league about the illegality of lifting a player into the air.
"I have never seen anything written that we couldn't tackle a guy that way," Frazier said. "So I am interested what the league has to say."
Henderson, Raymond will return as starters: Coming off two strong defensive performances against the Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Frazier said he isn't hesitant to return linebacker Erin Henderson and safety Mistral Raymond to the starting lineup when they come back from their injuries.
"No, I don't think so," Frazier said. "Hopefully we'll get Erin back here real soon and we'll get him going again. With Mistral, (it will be) a few more weeks. But when they're able to play, we'll plug them right back in."
Henderson has missed the past two games because of a concussion. Frazier said he hasn't been cleared yet. Raymond left in the first quarter against San Francisco with an ankle injury, and is expected to be out three to five weeks.
Frazier said it's possible that linebacker Jasper Brinkley will retain the role as one of the nickel linebackers when Henderson returns, but the decision is still up in the air. Henderson played in the nickel defense the first two weeks. Brinkley, the starting middle linebacker, has played there in place of Henderson the past two games.
"Jasper's played pretty good," Frazier said. "He did a good job yesterday against a high-powered passing offense. So, we'll have to take a real hard look at where he is in the passing game and where Erin would be when he comes back. So, we'll talk about it when Erin gets back."
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