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Harvin, Rice vaulted Vikes to passing excellence

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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Jan. 16, 2010 @ 8:35 a.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

There is no question that QB Brett Favre made a significant impact in his first year in Minnesota. In fact, in many ways he transformed the Vikings' offense from a run-based unit to a pass-dependent one. Nowhere was this most evident than at season's end when the Vikings failed to establish RB Adrian Peterson in the first half of the Week 16 game against the Bears. From the second half of that game through the Week 17 blowout of the Giants, the Vikings threw the ball with exceptional prowess without leaning too hard on the run game.

So let's play the chicken-or-egg game: Was it Favre who made the receivers what they have been this season, or the other way around?

WR coach George Stewart, being diplomatic, says it's a little of both. But there's no question that WRs Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin did some serious growing up prior to this season to make it to a proper level to allow the offense to flourish as it has. And it's no surprise that Harvin's presence helped Rice develop.

"Sidney always has been a special player, but I think drafting Percy Harvin may have had something to do with it," Stewart said. "I am not saying that is the total case, because working closely with Cris Carter and Larry Fitzgerald allowed him to see where he was at. (Rice) worked hard before, but he saw those guys and knew he had to step it up.

"Plus, getting Brett Favre ... that doesn't hurt."

As for Harvin, Stewart sees a player with boundless talent and potential. He's just beginning to see what the young player can do with the ball in his hands.

"The bar for Percy Harvin is as high as he wants to set it," Stewart said. "The young man has done a great job of coming in and learning everything we have asked of him."

Harvin's late-season mini-slump shouldn't be too shocking. Stewart, a former special-teams coach, said he has seen only one other rookie receive the kind of treatment that Harvin did, having been kicked away from for the better part of six games, and that was Devin Hester. But another factor was Harvin's migraine headaches, a problem he has dealt with since he was 10. They caused him to miss the Bengals game and made going to work a terrible chore.

"He's such a physically tough and mentally tough young man," Stewart said. "He passed every challenge we threw at him, but those migraines? They took their toll. But he's getting treated for them, and he's back to himself now.

"But those were debilitating. Just to see him struggle to come to work and to try to pay attention, try to learn and try to go to practice, it was awful for him."

 

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