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The Jets want Percy Harvin to be himself

Less than a week into their new relationship, Harvin and the Jets think they're a good match. The Jets also made it clear that this could be Harvin's last chance to find his place in the NFL.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Percy Harvin has always been an urban cat, a real dude. A front-door guy who means what he says and expects the same. So, when that doesn't happen, you've got problems. Push him off the edge, play mind games with him and, well, you've got bigger problems.

Harvin gets heated in a flash. He says that people focus too much on his reactions. Take a closer look at the start, not just the finish, he says.

"I made the best of it,'' Harvin said from the locker room on Monday, his first official day as a New York Jet. "But Minneapolis, Seattle, naw, maybe that just wasn't the best fit for me at all. I think this is it.''

This would be metropolitan New York, the Jets. That would be Minneapolis and Seattle. That would be the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks.

The Vikings drafted him in 2009. That lasted four seasons, and ended in a rift. The Seahawks traded for him in 2013. That lasted until last Friday, when he was traded to the Jets.

And out of the door, he was labeled in some circles as a problem player, one fighting teammates, butting heads with coaches, a cancer, a headache, a mystery, a moody malcontent. Harvin said things turned left in Seattle when the Seahawks turned on him. He became frustrated with his role in the offense, the lack of targets and the scarcity of downfield attempts.

"In the end, just not a good fit,'' he said.

Well, how many more "fits'' does Harvin, 26, want? How many more chances will this receiver gain to leave his explosions on the field and eliminate his explosive responses off it when things go awry?

This is the question for Harvin. That is the puzzle for the Jets.

"I think my response to things is something I'm still learning to manage,'' Harvin said. "I think I can do that even better here. In Rex Ryan, you've got a real dude as head coach. In some of these players around here, I see real dudes.''

More urban cats. That seems to give Harvin peace. For now.

Harvin (Chesapeake) and Jets backup quarterback Michael Vick (Newport News) are from cities within Virginia's Hampton Roads. They share the same agent -- Joel Segal -- as do other Jets, including running back Chris Johnson.

"He knows the story of what happened to him in Seattle and that side knows the story,'' Vick said. "Percy can turn that around and go in a new direction here and have a new day. Sometimes when you come from a certain kind of real place like we come from, you can start to feel a little claustrophobic. When you are used to certain kind of cities from your youth and you get to places where the attitude is different and people cross you, it can get ugly. This is the place for him. This is a place where he is going to find real teammates and genuine people.''

It is also the place where he finds a 1-6 team. He was just booted from a Super Bowl champion team. There is plenty of beast and beauty in that.

"This is the place for him. This is a place where he is going to find real teammates and genuine people." -Michael Vick

The Jets know with Harvin that where there is some smoke, there is likely some fire. Harvin's background is littered with getting fed up and then acting up. Especially over his role in an offense and over his perceived treatment. Especially with teammates and coaches who cross him. But the Jets evaluated compensation (small) with risks (slight -- they have dropped six straight games, who's worried about wrinkling chemistry?) with upside (huge as a dynamic kick returner and big-play receiver) and answered, "why not us?"

They sat him down and told him if it doesn't work, it will probably hurt him more than them. They asked him how many more NFL opportunities does he think he is going to gain if he keeps crashing and burning? It's a fresh start. A new marriage.

A possible "coup'' is how Jets general manager John Idzik described it. Or sinkhole.

The Jets say we will see. Harvin says all will see. He said Ryan told him: "Just be yourself.''


"I know what I am,'' Harvin said. "People here know who I am. In time, people will get a feel for me. I'm loving what I'm seeing so far.''

So is quarterback Geno Smith.

"Obviously he is a tremendous player,'' Smith said. "He helps the team. He boosts everyone on our team.''

That would be the maximum Harvin effect. By making sensational kick returns, sparkling runs from handoffs and gaudy catches for the Jets like the ones that have marked his NFL career, Harvin would provide the Jets an offensive jolt they crave: They rank 31st in NFL passing offense and dead last in net passing yards gained per play. But if he can help to elevate the play of others around him, if the Jets' other "playmakers'' elevate their games inspired by his example, well, that would be a Jets dream.

That would qualify as a Jets "coup.''


Photo via Getty Images

Harvin won a Pop Warner football national championship, a state high school championship, two national championships at the University of Florida and a Super Bowl in Seattle. It is no coincidence that teams he joins often win big games. Less than nine months ago in MetLife Stadium, where the Jets play, he was returning a second-half kick 87 yards for a touchdown in the blink of an eye in Super Bowl XLVIII. He was running those jet sweeps and screens on stretch runs that were blinding and deflating for the Denver Broncos in Seattle's 43-8 victory.

He is the elite of the elite. This is a unique and swanky player who can do things most NFL players cannot, while taking you to some places you don't want to go.

The Jets need him to stay healthy -- a variety of injuries, including migraines, have colored his career. The Jets need him to stay focused. The Jets need him to be a valuable spark and prove that he is worth it for them now and beyond. They need his stunning speed to kill defenses.

They also need this urban cat to cool it.

"I'm pretty quiet, I don't go looking for problems, but sometimes they find me in the way people deal with me,'' Harvin said. "And I'm just not one to take it quietly. ‘'

He will be tossed right in when the Buffalo Bills visit the Jets on Sunday.

"Percy just wants to feel free,'' Vick said. "He's real. He wants to show it. Right now.''