This sure would've sounded crazy in the middle of the 2015 season, right? Nobody even knew where Percy Harvin was. And of course his uneven past is well, well documented.
But this is still Rex Ryan, still a Buffalo Bills team that surprises you in just about every way. Do not rule out a Percy Harvin return in 2016. General manager Doug Whaley said as much this week.
"Absolutely. No doubt about it," Whaley said on WGR Radio. "Obviously the first thing for Percy is he's got to get completely healthy. Once he's healthy we'll reach out to his guy and explain that we'd like to have him back. I think when he was on the field people took notice and he helped us when Sammy was out. So we would love to have him back."
Quite a different tone than last October.
In London, the Bills claimed Harvin was absent for personal reasons. From Harvin's point of view, it was more about his lingering hip injury. And The News reported that he was contemplating retirement. He was eventually placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and had surgery. Some repair work, Pro Football Talk reported, was needed to mend this relationship.
However this situation went down, Harvin was back at One Bills Drive for a season-ending physical with the Bills' medical staff and the G.M. now says they'd "love" to have him back. Obviously there was some type of tug of war between the two sides behind the scenes with much money at stake. Considering Harvin's past troubles in Minnesota and Seattle, it was logical to assume this was another case of the player being unhappy.
And yet time... and time... and time again, whenever we spoke, Harvin went out of his way to say just how much he loved playing in Buffalo. With Rex Ryan. With Sanjay Lal. With this offense. And with the owners. Harvin said he'd frequently text Terry Pegula and was blown away by the owner's generosity. A look back at Harvin's comments leading up to his odd exit show a player who enjoyed playing in Buffalo, one who could return if that relationship has been mended.
In our "Debunking an Image" (Aug. 17): "Man, it feels so great to come out here and just let it loose.At other places, I felt like every day I had to walk on eggshells and look over my back to see who’s watching me. Here, the guys let me be me. ... “I want this to be the year, I look and say, ‘Year Seven was the turning point. That’s when I put it all together.’"
“It’s finally time to reach the potential of where I think I am,” Harvin said. “I said before I got here, this would be the year I put it all together. No off-the-field troubles. Not that there was off-the-field troubles, but no calling my name for anything other than being a good teammate making plays for my teammates and helping us win.
“That’s all I want to do.”
The season began and Harvin, not Sammy Watkins, was the No. 1 target. While Watkins battled a calf injury, Harvin was flourishing once again. Working with Lal, Harvin perfected the "speed cut" in which he turns left or right at top speed so the cornerback can't tell which way he's going.
From "New receiving technique..." (Sept. 19): “I’m on a tear. That’s what I’ve been saying the last couple years. And I finally found a coach and an organization who believes in me where I’m happy to wake up every morning with a smile on my face driving into work. I have great teammates. So I come in each day having fun with these guys, just working on my craft.
“By the end of the season, I should be hitting on all cylinders.”
And through Buffalo's first three games, Harvin caught 16 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown. In a win at Miami, he burnt Brice McCain on four third-down conversions. This seventh season was shaping up to be his best as a pure wide receiver --- Harvin was lining up in the slot and out wide.
He continued to praise Lal and his role into the next month.
From "Percy Harvin becoming a complete wide receiver" (Oct. 1): “I’m just loving it — being able to go outside, inside, the backfield, all around the place. There’s no telling where I may be going.
“I never really was challenged at it. I never had a coach come and say, ‘Hey, you’re out of control. Come do this. Learn to do this and you could be more dangerous.’ So just doing that and taking that to the practice field and then the game, I can say, ‘OK, that does work.’ So I just keep instilling that in my head, knowing that I already have the speed to already put fear in a lot of defenders.
"If my number’s called on. I’m ready for the challenge.”
No warning signs. No red flags. All was good in Percy Harvin's world here in Buffalo until it wasn't. Two weeks later, the strange hip/knee/personal reasons confusion ensued and his season was over.
Whaley's words do indicate a stark change in tone. The 2016 Bills could certainly use a deep threat opposite Watkins, who emerged as a star the final nine weeks of the season. While there's a good chance Buffalo looks to the NFL draft to find that player, it's not time to completely rule out Harvin. Whoever plays on the other side is bound to see one-on-one coverage.
For weeks, months Harvin indicated that he was extremely happy to be in Buffalo. If he's healthy enough to play, and wishes to resume his career, the Bills might be able to bring him back on a team-friendly deal. It's hard to see other teams doling out multi-year offers to a receiver who turns 28 in May and battled countless injuries.
It's on the Bills and all teams to decide if signing Harvin is worth the risk. Something was amiss behind the scenes.
Long story short: Anything is possible with Rex Ryan and these Bills.
On this week's podcast, we discussed Harvin and more. You download that here on iTunes.