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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings faced third down deep in their own territory late in their last game with the score tied and Percy Harvin hurting.
Christian Ponder saw the cornerback blitz by Carolina, and the rookie pivoted right and quickly threw the ball in the slot to Harvin, who used a spin move to escape one tackle and powered his way past another defender for an 11-yard gain when 7 was needed.
Harvin got up slowly and put his hands on his knees, his painfully bruised ribs making it difficult for the third-year wide receiver to move.
But he stayed in the game, caught another pass on that possession for 22 yards and a first down and helped put the Vikings in position for the go-ahead field goal in that Oct. 30 victory over the Panthers.
From those debilitating migraine headaches to this latest malady, Harvin has played through all kinds of discomfort throughout his career, dating to his college days at Florida.
Perhaps that’s why he balked again this week when asked if he thought his grit in the last game set a winning tone in the locker room for his teammates.
“People come up with all kinds of stories,” Harvin said, trailing off. “I was just trying to play football and do what I do. My ribs were hurting, but not enough to keep me out of the game. So coach called on my number, and I answered it.”
The rest of the Vikings haven’t shrugged off Harvin’s toughness, though.
“The guy is unbelievable,” Ponder said. “He’s tough. He’s one of the toughest guys on the team, not only physically but mentally. I think the biggest play of the game was him catching that flat — it was a hot route — on the last drive and making a guy miss and getting the first down. He’s got tremendous heart, and he’s a tremendous player.”
High praise from a Florida State guy. But Ponder doesn’t care where Harvin went to school. He’s just a quarterback trying to develop — and trying to develop a connection with his most valuable sidekick on offense outside of Adrian Peterson.
“I’m just a playmaker out there trying to make plays. It wasn’t only me,” Harvin said, deflecting more accolades.
Harvin needed the bye as much as any other player on the Vikings (2-6).
With a week off for his body to heal, Harvin, Peterson, Ponder and the rest of the bunch are eager to try to spring a big upset of the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.
The game is on Monday night at Lambeau Field, where Harvin has had two of his best NFL games.
As a rookie, he caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. Last season, he ran the ball three times for 41 yards and a score and totaled five receptions for 65 yards.
The Packers have been vulnerable on defense, and Ponder was able to move the ball and complete some clutch passes on third down in the last meeting Oct. 23 in Minnesota. To have any chance of winning, they’ll have to score a lot of points.
“We’ve shown on tape that if we execute, we can play with any team in this league,” Harvin said.
For his part, healthy ribs will go a long way toward the Vikings’ ability to do that.
“They’re good,” he said Monday, adding: “I don’t think it should be a problem at all.”
Even if they aren’t in good shape, well, the Vikings will still be relying on him.
“Not like any wide receiver I’ve ever been around,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “You just don’t see a guy blocking and taking such pleasure in having a big block like he does. As much as he likes to catch a ball or run a ball, he’s unique. He’s a great example for the rest of our players who sometimes get nicked up with nagging injuries.”
“To see him go out and battle through a rib injury when you know he’s a contact player, and every time he takes a hit he’s going to feel it to a degree, it’s just great for our team to be able to see that.”
Frazier called him as tough of a player as he’s ever coached or played with.
“He wants to do whatever it takes to win. It’s rare to have a star player with that mindset,” the coach said.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)