Just when WR Percy Harvin seemed to be becoming Mrs. Doubtfire, his true self will appear at Seahawks practice Thursday “with the intention of playing in this next game,” meaning the Jan. 11 playoffs, Pete Carroll said Thursday — six hours after the Seahawks coach sounded as if Harvin was headed to the injured reserve list that would have ended his season.
Explanation was fairly sparse, but Carroll was quick to offer, unasked, his belief that there was no hidden agenda.
“There’s no game plan here, nothing behind the scenes,” he said Monday afternoon at team headquarters. “There’s no strategy here. We’re all pulling for him. It might be pretty exciting if he can make it back.
“He’s been rehabbing the whole time to get to this point. He ran real well today.”
Yet on his weekly ESPN 710 radio show Monday morning, he sounded resigned to the fact that Harvin was likely headed to the injured reserve list, which would end his season and free up a roster spot.
“We’ll get to the bottom of it by middle of this week,” Carroll said in the morning. “It’s been a very difficult struggle for him. It’s a personal thing right now. He’s worked very hard to make it back, and he’s not gotten over the hump. He needs an off-season to get back full strength.
“We’ll have an extraordinary football player next season.”
While Carroll was not definitive about the IR, no one can read his words and not grasp that he was thinking in the long term about Harvin, who signed a five-year contract extension in March that guarantees him $26 million. Carroll did not sound as if he were talking about someone who was about to be an immediate help.
The change could be a sudden improvement in health regarding Harvin’s hip that was surgically repaired in August. Harvin returned Nov. 17 for 19 plays in one game, against Minnesota, his old club. He has not played since, although there has been little public disclosure about the nature of the slow recovery.
Carroll dismissed the issue of pain tolerance.
“It’s way more complicated than soreness,” he said. “He had major hip surgery. There are a lot of people who walk around for years getting back from that, and he’s trying to do it in months. He’s not just trying to get back to being a normal human being walking down the street. He goes a million miles an hour and throws his body everywhere, and he has to be perfectly fit to do that.
“He’s learned as he’s gone along to try and figure this thing out. It’s taken us some time because it’s a very delicate situation.”
“Delicate” is not a word heard much around a football team, a game played by large, sweaty men with disagreeable attitudes — particularly if they are the St. Louis Rams, who Sunday displayed a temperament more suited for the North Korean secret police. But we digress.
Harvin is not a delicate guy, nor is anything about the game delicate. So skipping over his medical condition, for which we have no word other than Carroll’s, we move to the business decision, which could be described as delicate. And simple:
Harvin wants to play now. The Seahawks want him to play for the duration of his contract.
The guess here is neither side is quite sure if January 2014 is the time to decide if Harvin can do both, or take the risk and discover it will be neither. Both sides have some high-stakes desires.
Since Harvin already has his money, he would appear to want to be a contributor to a potential Super Bowl winner. Since the Seahawks made a huge, controversial investment, they want a lot more return than a handful of games.
So the compromise, apparently, is to try a full practice Thursday. If Harvin wakes up Friday morning feeling good, the Seahawks may be on to acquiring a deep passing threat they’ve needed all season.
If he wakes up suffering, then the debate is over, he goes on injured reserve and the Seahawks can add a useful player.
Given the clashes Harvin had with coaches during his tenure with the Vikings, it would not be surprising to learn he has become something of a pain in the butt about his readiness to play. But Carroll isn’t about to say so.
“This guy is a true competitor,” Carroll said. “He would do anything to play and he’s been fighting for some time — month and months — to try and position himself so that he could get back here. To his credit, he has not given up on it, and he’s at a place where he has a chance. So we’ll see what happens.
“If he can help his team, then that’s great. We’ve never, ever said that this changes anything for us. He’s one of the terrific, young players on the team. We’re hoping that he can do his part and fit. It’ll be great for him. We’ll benefit from it too, if it works out.”
Carroll sounds as if there is a giant “but . . .” looming unpoken over his words. If true, it’s that the club fears the entire Harvin investment is at risk with a premature return. That’s why Carroll spoke in a more upbeat way in the morning about getting Harvin back healthy next year.
It’s a classic sports-business story of short-term gain vs. long-term value. A similar version played out in Seattle in the mid-1990s when Sonics coach George Karl wanted nothing to do with playing rookies when his job depended on winning now. Sonics president Wally Walker wanted to see the young guys because it was his job to sustain success. The fight broke apart the franchise and helped usher in the decade-long decay that led to the franchise’s departure.
It’s not as dramatic in the Seahawks case. Carroll and GM John Schneider are likely on the same side of valuing the long term. But Harvin, as quarterback Russell Wilson likes to say, lives in the now, and he sees the now passing him by.
Reports last week from unidentified sources indicated Harvin’s contract contains provisions that might be influencing the decision. Carroll denied it.
“He’s a young man that has a bright, long future,” he said. “We want to make sure to take care of him, is all. That has nothing to do with his contract, really.”
Since the trade in March cost the Seahawks three draft choices besides all the cash into his redone contract, Harvin’s story has been a seasonal subplot. The story may have grown tiresome for some. But now that the Seahawks have come a lot way without him, yet are vulnerable in one place where he could help, the delicate little drama just grew more intriguing.
Quinn, Bevell sought for head-coach vacancies
The Browns have requested permission to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for their head coaching vacancy, sources said in the wake of the Black Monday cashiering of six NFL head coaches.
The Vikings are rumored to be interested in Quinn, too, as well as Darrell Bevell, who was offensive coordinator in Minnesota from 2006-10 before coming to Seattle.
The defense of Quinn, 43, allowed the fewest yards (273.6) and points this season 14.4. The Seahawks are tied for eighth in the NFL with 44 sacks. Quinn, who began his career primarily as a defensive line coach, has also coached with the 49ers, Dolphins, Jets and at the University of Florida.
As he always has with assistants, Carroll offered his support.
“One guy is a defensive guy, one guy is an offensive guy, it just depends on what you’re looking for,” he said. “Both of these guys are fantastic football coaches. They’ve been highly successful, and they’re leading really good units. They can make all of the decisions.
“Neither one has been a head coach before. There is still a curve there for them, but they’re as qualified as anybody could possibly be. I’m particularly fond of these guys, because they’ve been through our program and I know what they know. They’ll bring great order and structure to the next place they go.”