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Updated: September 8th, 2011 1:58pm
Debate continues but Percy Harvin sees no reason he can't return kicks

Debate continues but Percy Harvin sees no reason he can't return kicks

by Judd Zulgad
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that he was still debating whether to have wide receiver Percy Harvin or running back Lorenzo Booker return kickoffs on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings open the regular season against the San Diego Chargers.

It's clear, however, that Harvin doesn't think there should be any question about who handles the job.

"You (have) to ask coach that right now," Harvin said Thursday when asked if he would return kicks. "They're battling with each other, him and the special teams coach (Mike Priefer). But I'll keep practicing and if coach lets me get that first one, I'll definitely be out there. ...

"I'm lobbying hard. (Priefer) came up and asked me and I told him 'Definitely' (I want to do it). Him and coach are going back and forth. Nothing bad. We've been having a little laugh with it. We'll see at game time."

Frazier said he wants Harvin "to return kicks, too," before adding, "It's just a matter of weighing what's best for the entire team over the course of four quarters and this season. But we'll come to the right conclusion."

Priefer made it clear that Harvin is No. 1 on the depth chart for kickoff returns, but said a decision on whether to use Harvin or Booker will be made on a case-by-case situation. 

Harvin has proven to be an elite kick returner, averaging 27.5 yards on 42 returns as a rookie -- that performance earned him a Pro Bowl spot as a return man -- and 23.3 yards on 40 returns last season. He also has taken three kicks back for touchdowns.

But the Vikings want to be cautious with him because he is sure to see extensive playing time at receiver and because the team would like him to avoid high-contact collisions given his history of migraine headaches. Harvin hasn't had a known episode of migraines in several months.

"We've still got to discuss that," Frazier said of the continuing talks about who will be used in this role Sunday. "He's one of the best kickoff returners in the league, if not the best. But he's also the best slot receiver and one of the top wide receivers in the National Football League, so we've got to wait and (figure out) what's best."

Another issue is that kickoffs have been moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line. That is sure to increase touchback numbers and might not make the risk worth the reward.

"It's a contact sport no matter what you're doing, blocking, anything, there's going to be contact," Harvin said. "So I don't look at that. I go 100 miles an hour and it is what it is."

Frazier clearly has a different view.

"It's a combination," of injury and fatigue concerns, Frazier said. "You're taking a look at is it worth it for what we're going to ask him to do on offense? And the fact that he's so explosive as a kickoff return guy, he's a threat every single time he touches the ball, and we need points. Points are going to be at a premium on Sunday, so we've got to weigh those factors in."

Harvin doesn't buy the argument that he might get winded handling the additional role.

"That's just coach kind of over-thinking right now," he said. "We have talked about that, saying, when I can rest. I'm seeing a lot of positions this week. We talked about it. I'll be ready to go."

• Right tackle Phil Loadholt and defensive tackle Letroy Guion were not on the field Thursday during the brief portion of practice reporters are allowed to watch. Both missed practice time because they were dealing with personal issues. Guion is expected to start Sunday in place of the suspended Kevin Williams.

Tom Pelissero contributed.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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