Some in the Northwest swear they’ve seen him, but even they admit the glimpses were fleeting. And others contend he has superhuman physical traits, but there’s so little evidence.
Today, though, dedicated watchers in these parts are expecting a rare sighting of the near-mythical Percy Harvin.
Harvin’s promised participation in Seahawks practice could be a historic, breakthrough moment — or another in a series of teases.
Maybe his repaired hip acts up right away and he goes back on the shelf, leaving questions about his health — and value to the team — to linger into the offseason.
But if this guy can inject an offensive boost when the Seahawks need it the most, the twisting melodrama of the fall will be a soon-forgotten prologue.
If nothing else, Thursday’s appearance finally will give fans more to go on than uninformed speculation.
From the start, we’ve been conditioned toward caution when making assumptions about Harvin’s status.
When he was acquired last spring via trade with the Minnesota Vikings, fans of the Seattle Seahawks saw the gifted receiver/returner as the final offensive weapon to help power the team to the Super Bowl.
But hip surgery early in training camp sidelined Harvin for at least the first half of the season. Early on, he chirped a positive tweet about his rapid recovery, elevating expectations.
He reinforced those on Nov. 17 against his old team in limited action, during which he registered an impressive third-down catch and a 58-yard kickoff return. Two plays of statistical note.
And then he disappeared. Yes, coach Pete Carroll conceded, there had been a setback. Whereas he previously had been seen in the locker room and on the field working out before games, he was suddenly elsewhere.
Here’s what happens when rabid fans and inquisitive media get only vague updates: They get suspicious. They smell conspiracies. They fabricate scenarios.
Harvin was being intentionally kept under wraps until the playoffs. He would come back belatedly only because his contract makes that specifically beneficial. He’s a diva who is counting his signing bonus rather than working to earn it.
Rarely has there been so much speculation over a player with one catch and one kickoff return. Bottom line, the team won 13 games and earned the NFC’s top seed without him.
But there are huge expenses and opportunity costs to consider.
Harvin’s $12 million signing bonus is more than the combined 2013 base salaries for five of their Pro Bowl selections (Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Max Unger). And the Seahawks gave up a first- and seventh-round pick this spring and a third-rounder in the next draft for him.
Mostly, though, Harvin’s circumstances are compelling because of the possibilities he represents.
Because playoff games are often decided by just one or two big plays, the value of one of the league’s bona fide playmakers is immeasurable. If only another handful of the kinds of plays Harvin made against the Vikings had been sprinkled throughout the season, the Seahawks might be 16-0 right now.
The intrigue ramped up on Monday when a number of national reports held that Harvin was likely on his way to the injured-reserve list, putting him on ice until next season.
But 13 questions into his Monday afternoon press conference, Carroll slipped in the bombshell: Harvin will practice on Thursday.
Maybe he will ride a unicorn onto the field.
Carroll, having seen every twist in this mystery, could not have been more cautious when asked the significance of the return. Ten times while talking about Harvin, Carroll used the phrase “we’ll see what happens.”
He made a good point, perhaps in answer to some who contend that Harvin should have been well enough to get on the field before now.
“He’s not just trying to get back to being a normal human being walking down the street,” Carroll said. “He goes a million miles an hour and throws his body everywhere. He has to be perfectly fit to do that.”
And in response to the conspiracists, Carroll said “There were no strategies, (nothing) behind the scenes.”
Here’s what I can tell you about Harvin: After the Minnesota game, I asked a couple of the veteran straight-shooters on the team about him.
Fullback Mike Robinson stressed that Harvin had never once acted as if he was anything else but just another guy who wanted to work hard and contribute to the team’s success.
And tackle Russell Okung, who spent eight weeks rehabbing an injured toe alongside Harvin, said that he was hugely impressed with Harvin’s desire to return. “He was tenacious in his pursuit to get back,” Okung said.
So far, it’s been mystery and drama. But today it might start turning into something far more productive.
But I think it’s best to take Carroll’s approach.
Wait and see what happens.