By Brady Henderson
Like any great kickoff returner, Percy Harvin just needed an opening.
He'd spent much of Sunday's game pleading with coach Pete Carroll for a chance to return a kickoff, and when he finally got one after Jermaine Kearse left with an injury, Harvin turned in the signature play of his long-awaited Seahawks debut.
Harvin's 58-yard kickoff return wasn't the defining moment of Seattle's 41-20 win over Minnesota, only the most exciting. It was some eight months in the making, the type of play Seahawks envisioned when they acquired Harvin from Minnesota in a blockbuster offseason trade. After missing Seattle's first 10 games while recovering from hip surgery, Harvin was itching to show what he could do.
Percy Harvin made an acrobatic catch and returned a kickoff 58 yards in his long-awaited Seahawks debut. (AP)
Harvin was on the field for just 16 offensive snaps and two kickoff returns, a reflection of Seattle's desire to ease him back into action in what was his first game in more than a calendar year.
He was targeted once, making a juggling catch in the second quarter that produced 17 yards, a first down down and a standing ovation from the CenturyLink Field crowd.
That wasn't all he did, though.
Harvin is considered one of the league's most explosive players, and because of that he has an ability to impact plays even when he doesn't get the ball. Call it The Percy Harvin Effect, defenses having to account for his rare speed and thereby taking some of their attention off of other players.
Just ask Doug Baldwin, whose two long receptions on Sunday – one gaining 44 yards and the other resulting in a 19-yard touchdown – both came on plays in which he was lined up out wide with Harvin to his left in the slot.
"He's got elite speed, so any time you look at him in the slot or maybe outside, the safety's got to cheat to his side in case he beats the guy off the line of scrimmage," Baldwin said, "because if he doesn't get there, then there's nobody in this league that's going to catch up with Percy."
That speed makes Harvin one of the league's most dangerous kickoff returners, too. It's a job some NFL players aren't too fond of but one Harvin relishes. So when Kearse left the game in the first half because of a head injury, Harvin made it known to Carroll and anyone else who would listen how badly he wanted a shot.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Less is more for Wilson, Seahawks||• Wyman: The Percy Harvin Effect||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
This game was special for Harvin for all sorts of reasons. In addition it being his Seahawks debut, coming against his former team and marking his first time on a football field in a year, Harvin revealed on Sunday that doctors discovered a tumor in his appendix when it was removed last year. He said the appendectomy took place about three weeks after he injured his ankle in a Nov. 4, 2012 loss to the Seahawks, which made Sunday's game the culmination of what has been an eventful 12 months.
"There was a lot built into this game, other than just my hip," he said. "Emotionally, it was good to get out there and be with my teammates again."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.