The Buffalo Bills were desperate for help at wide receiver. Why not place a call to Percy Harvin, who spent five games with them last season before hip and knee injuries sidelined him and eventually drove him into retirement?
Harvin decided that "after taking time off" to let himself heal physically and mentally, he felt good enough to give the game another shot, and on Tuesday he re-signed with the Bills.
"I actually thought I was done," he said after practicing with the team. "I was at peace. Pretty much the first five weeks of the NFL (season), I really wasn't focused on football. I didn't have the urge to go play. I just kind of was relaxing, just letting my mind just kind of just chill. And as those five weeks went by, the next month came and the body started feeling kind of good, so the mind started wondering a little bit.
"At that point, I told my agent, 'Don't make no calls. Just see what happens.' And I kept training, just kept doing my thing, and then the Bills called."
To make room for the receiver on their 53-man roster, the Bills placed safety Aaron Williams, who is recovering from head/neck injuries, on their injured-reserve list.
"We always keep every option open and it was one of those things, with his familiarity with our offense, we said, 'Hey, let's find out where he is,'" General Manager Doug Whaley said of the decision to reach out to Harvin about two weeks ago.
Although Whaley said he didn't expect Harvin to be in "football shape," he wasn't ruling him out of playing in Monday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks. After that, the Bills have a bye, plus a week of preparation for their Nov. 20 game at Cincinnati, so, Whaley added, "We've got some time to work him into where we need him to be."
Harvin wasn't sure about the Seattle game, but expressed confidence he is fully recovered from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. "Just the training I've been doing, a lot of training, just rest, a lot of rehab, I'm confident the way my workouts were, the way I was moving, cutting, I don't think it'll be a problem," he said.
Harvin, who signed with the Bills last year as a free agent, announced his retirement in April after again entering free agency. On Tuesday, he cited his knee as the main reason.
"I think any athlete who wants to perform how he wants to perform and he's not allowed to do that, it's very frustrating," Harvin said. "I knew the level I wanted to play at and my body just wouldn't let me play at that level with my knee. So it was time for me to just step back, let my body heal, without trainers putting a time on it or being rushed. I just wanted to take time off to myself. I was able to relax with my family and just kind of get myself together.
"I'm refreshed and I'm ready to go."
For the Bills, taking a flier on Harvin for a reported prorated salary of $1 million (if he's on the team for all remaining eight regular-season games) was a more prudent option than having to potentially give up a high draft pick to acquire a receiver before Tuesday's 4 p.m. NFL trade deadline.
Whaley expressed no concern over Harvin's frame of mind based on his decision to quit playing.
"You'd have to talk (to him about) what his thought process was," the GM said. "But when he reached out to us and told us that he was thinking about retiring, it was more about his not being physically able to perform at the level he was used to -- to being the Percy Harvin that he knew he wanted to show to the football league and to the world. So once we started going down this road, we said, 'Well, maybe after getting right healthy, let's see where his mind is.' And then, when we reached out, he said he was interested and now he's with the Buffalo Bills."
The Bills have been severely depleted in their receiving corps due to injuries. Sammy Watkins is on the injured-reserve list with issues stemming from his surgically repaired foot. Marquise Goodwin missed last Sunday's loss against New England after entering concussion protocol after the Oct. 23 loss at Miami, while Brandon Tate entered concussion protocol after last Sunday's loss against New England. Greg Salas has an injured hamstring, while Robert Woods has been limited by a foot problem.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor -- who, like Harvin, grew up in the Virginia Beach, Va., area and played high school football and basketball against him -- wasn't scheduled to speak with media until Thursday, but when pressed on his reaction to Harvin's return, he said, "That's my boy. Definitely excited to have him."
Harvin played in five games for Buffalo last season before missing the rest of the year. He had 19 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown for the Bills. He also returned five kickoffs for 108 yards.
For his career -- which includes four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2009-2012), two with Seattle (2013-2014), and eight games with the New York Jets (also in 2014) -- he has 351 catches for 4,020 yards for and 22 touchdowns. He also has rushed 145 times for 916 yards and five touchdowns.
"He's obviously a dynamic playmaker, a great teammate," Bills fullback Jerome Felton said. "I was with him in Minnesota and then, obviously, last year, so whenever you can bring an A-plus talent to the team, that obviously helps. He's an explosive player. ... I know he's had some health issues, so if those are resolved, you bring an A-plus talent to a team and, obviously, it adds a lot to our offense, a lot of explosion, hopefully big plays."
Added linebacker Preston Brown, "He’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He can do anything out there on the football field, basically all 22 positions. A special talent and we know that we need the receiver help now, so it’ll be great to have him back."
Whaley said the Bills placed Williams on the injured-reserve list because they knew he would be "out for an extended period of time" and that Williams, who underwent surgery for a neck injury he suffered last season, would have to decide if he wanted to continue playing once he received medical clearance to return.
However, Whaley was quick to point out that each NFL team is allowed to activate one player from IR after eight weeks, and he did not rule out the possibility that that player could be Williams, who would be eligible to return for the final game of the regular season. Watkins would be eligible for the Nov. 27 game against Jacksonville.
"So we have a couple of candidates," Whaley said. "So this doesn't say his season's definitely over."