Former Florida Gators star Percy Harvin had an up-and-down NFL career that covered nine seasons, featured stints on four teams, and showcased both the incredible athleticism and mercurial temperament that made him one of the most compelling Gators of all time.
Apparently, he’s not satisfied with what he’s already done, though, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Wednesday that Harvin is, in his own words, “ready to return to the NFL,” and training for a comeback.
Breaking: Former 1st-rounder, FA WR Percy Harvin tells me: “I’m ready to return to the NFL. I thought I was done, but that itch came back. I’ve been training w/a former Olympian. My body is feeling good. Mentally I’m better. My family is good. The timing is right.” He's 185lbs. pic.twitter.com/NQaadbF73B— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 22, 2020
The slow-motion video Anderson tweeted along with Harvin’s quotes is — as most Florida fans would recognize immediately — of Harvin sprinting up one of the spiral ramps that leads into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, suggesting that the Virginia native who recently made Gainesville his home to be near a son he had with former Florida volleyballer Janine Williams is still in the 352 and doing at least some of his training on Florida’s campus.
Training in Gainesville doesn’t really narrow down the “former Olympian” with whom he’s training, as hat could be any of several Florida alumni (or non-Gators) who train in Gainesville, at least in part to be in proximity to Florida track coach — and former and future U.S. Olympic track coach — Mike Holloway. But Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports notes that some of the other videos of Harvin shared by Anderson show him at NUMA Speed, a speed and strength training program operated in Gainesville by former Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery, whose checkered early life has been followed by this second act.
If Harvin is truly 185 pounds and intending to play at that weight, that means he’ll be significantly lighter during his own second act than he was for much of his collegiate and professional career. Harvin famously bulked up entering his junior season as a means of attempting to avoid the nagging injuries he picked up during his first two years at Florida, and while he was listed at 195 pounds on the Gators’ 2008 roster, he reported his own weight as 205 pounds, and appeared to maintain himself near that number throughout his time as a player.
Harvin’s prodigious strength doesn’t seem to have been affected by the weight cut, and he physically appears to be in tremendous shape.
Percy Harvin told me while out of NFL: “I had a dream a while ago when 12 was with the #Patriots, that I would play for Tom Brady. That was well before the pandemic & he went to the Bucs, my comeback was already in the works. But I’m ready for any offense that'll just let me go." pic.twitter.com/nZqAdD5uS1— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 22, 2020
WR Percy Harvin’s new agent Alvin Keels told me just now he’s already getting to work fielding calls with teams looking for a WR with NFL experience during an offseason training period impacted by the CoVID19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/9yCDSLclUL— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 22, 2020
But for a player whose injuries became nearly as numerous as his highlights, playing at a lighter weight in the brutal NFL is a potential concern.
Yet one thing even more closely associated with Harvin than injury — his habitual and prolific use of marijuana to manage an anxiety disorder — is unlikely to be as big an obstacle to his NFL return as one might initially think.
Since Harvin last suited up in 2016, the NFL has relaxed and rolled back some of its rules regarding marijuana use, most notably no longer mandating suspensions for failed tests for the substance as part of a new collective bargaining agreement hammered out this year. Harvin would be returning to a league where he could still be fined for positive tests — which he, it should be noted, never had one of in his career, despite his claim that he was high prior to every game he played — but would not be tested until training camp, and would need to fail multiple tests or resist participating in the NFL’s testing protocols to incur a suspension.
That would seem to be a not insignificant element to the report of Harvin’s desire to make a comeback: In theory, he is now more or less capable of plying a trade he could be among the world’s best at while also continuing to self-medicate with marijuana. (In theory, he could also not be smoking weed at present. In theory.)
But whatever the circumstances may be that now permit Percy Harvin to again dream of starring in NFL games, it’s inspiring and exciting to hear talk of him potentially playing football again because he’s so damn good at it. And if a 31-year-old Harvin retains even 90 percent of the speed and agility that made him a game-breaker in his 20s, I have to think he could still be useful to at least one of the NFL’s 32 teams.
Will those teams be playing football this fall, as the world possibly continues to deal with the spread and threat of the novel coronavirus? That’s anyone’s guess.
I’ll be much more excited for the 2020 NFL season if Harvin is part of it, though.