NFL

NFL AM: Percy Harvin Excited about Expanded Role

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Harvin Thinking Outside the Hashes

It has been a rough few seasons for Percy Harvin. The former first-round pick is now on his fourth team in as many years and eager to prove he is more than the gadget player he appeared to be in Seattle.

Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who also coached Harvin in Minnesota, insisted on getting the ball to Harvin in one of two ways: throwing it to him in the slot or handing it to him out of the backfield. Eventually, Harvin’s off-field distractions outweighed his on-field production, so he was shipped off to the New York Jets. That is where he first encountered receivers coach Sanjay Lal, whom Harvin has since followed to Buffalo.

And it is Lal who is charged with resuscitating Harvin’s career by making him just as dangerous outside the hashes as he is from the slot.

“I fell in love with Sanjay (Lal) as a coach,” Harvin told the Bills team website. “His ability to get me to process things so quickly … going into the second or third game [in New York], I felt like I had been playing outside for years … That was all a part of my big decision to come [to Buffalo].”

Harvin is now part of a loaded Bills offense that also features RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins and TE Charles Clay. What it doesn’t feature is a franchise quarterback, as E.J. Manuel, Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor will compete for the starting position during training camp.

But the uncertainty under center has not affected Harvin’s belief in himself. His confidence has been soaring ever since inking a one-year deal with the Bills back in April.

“Everything here spells success for me,” Harvin said at the time. “The world has yet to see me explode like I’m about to.”

Sam Back in the CFL

On the same day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, Michael Sam returned to the CFL’s Alouettes, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Go figure.

Sam left the Alouettes a couple weeks back, citing personal reasons. The vague excuse left everyone to wonder if he was simply having second thoughts about playing north of the border. Montreal did little to shed light on the matter, although it placed Sam on the suspended list.

That appears to be over now, as Sam is slated to return to meetings over the weekend and be back on the practice field on Monday.

Sam, a seventh-round pick in 2014 and the first openly gay player ever drafted into the NFL, split his rookie season between St. Louis and Dallas, although he never cracked the 53-man roster for either team. The hope is the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year can rack up some sacks in the CFL and parlay that into another shot in the NFL, perhaps even emerging as a poor man’s Cameron Wake.

Sam showed some pass-rush ability last preseason, recording three sacks. He needs to be similarly productive in his return to the Alouettes, because he is quickly running out of opportunities.

Winston Looks to Whittle Down

No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston took part in a Play 60 event at the Rookie Symposium on Friday. And while the point of the event was to teach middle schoolers to stay active, all the running around had a side benefit: helping Winston shed some pounds.

Winston’s weight has been scrutinized since some unflattering pictures arose prior to the draft. Now, Winston admits he’ll spend the weeks leading up to training camp trying to tighten up.

“Trying to lose some weight, try to get back skinny,” he said of his pre-training camp goals. “Right now I’m 238 (pounds), I’m trying to be my redshirt freshman year (weight), about 230.”

Winston’s weight did not seem to be a factor during OTAs or mini camp, where he was decidedly impressive. Nonetheless, it’s good to see him taking a proactive approach to getting into peak shape, as many wondered whether his lack of accountability would undermine his potential.

Now comes the ultimate exercise: trying to lift an offense that was among the league’s most putrid units in 2014.

Winston is eager to take on the challenge.

“You never focus on the negative,” he said. “You put a big smile on your face and work hard and work to improve every single day.”

Collins Calls His Shot

There are several candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley and Bud Dupree are all considered strong possibilities. Broncos pass rusher Shane Ray wants in on the action, too, recently saying he expects nothing less than a Rookie of the Year campaign.

On Friday, another player threw his hat in the ring: Giants safety Landon Collins.

Collins, who New York traded up the acquire in the second round, will start at strong safety for the Giants. He is a physical in-the-box defender, although his coverage skills still need a lot of polish.

Clearly, Collins does not think that will be an issue.

Defensive Rookie of the Year, that’s my expectation,” he said.

In fact, Collins believes he has already won over his coaches with his improvements in coverage.

“It’s been going fantastic,” he said of offseason work thus far. “The coaches love the range that I have. I get to go showcase it at practice … the more I work on it, the better I can get at it and the more I can help my corners if I need to help over the top.”

Not all of New York’s coaches are impressed. Safeties coach Dave Merritt recently called out his group for its lack of experience and leadership.

The ever confident Collins took that as a challenge more than a criticism. He believes the Giants traded up to draft him because he can be the leader the secondary sorely needs.

“That they didn’t move up in the draft for no reason, that’s what I’m trying to prove and be ready to play,” he said.

Ready to play? Sure. Ready to win Defensive Rookie of the Year? We’ll see. But in a league where Eli Manning owns more Super Bowl rings than Peyton Manning, anything is possible.

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About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.