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Rookie WR Harvin practices with Vikings after signing five-year contract

MANKATO, Minn. -- While many NFL rookies who hold out of training camp fall dangerously behind as their teams practice without them, Percy Harvin took advantage of a luxury that few others enjoy: his friendship with Tim Tebow.

While Harvin's agent, Joel Segal, negotiated a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, the speedy wide receiver spent his days on the University of Florida campus catching passes from Tebow, his Heisman Trophy-winning teammate the past three seasons with the Gators.

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"He's probably the best thing other than a pro quarterback," Harvin said of Tebow on Sunday after signing a five-year deal with the Vikings. "Of course he's not a pro quarterback, but I got the best work in I could do without actually being here."

Harvin, the 22nd overall pick in April's draft, missed the first two days and four practices of training camp, but he hopped an early flight from Florida to the Twin Cities to make sure he got there in time for Sunday's practice.

"I don't think anybody was more anxious to get on the field than me today," Harvin said.

Well, maybe there was one.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said that it was important for Harvin to report to camp as soon as possible so he didn't fall too far behind his teammates. Harvin will be asked to play a variety of roles in Minnesota, including wide receiver, running back and return man, so he has plenty of studying to do.

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"We're going to challenge him," Childress said. "It's not like we're going to spoon feed him."

While many scouts and draft analysts said Harvin had top-10 talent, he slipped to the Vikings because of concerns about his durability and a failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Childress had some of the same concerns, so he flew to Florida and personally met with Harvin and his family before the draft. The coach came away impressed by Harvin's willingness to take responsibility for past mistakes and didn't hesitate to draft the receiver when the Vikings came on the clock in the first round.

"It's a dream come true," Harvin said after his first official practice. "For me, there was a lot of bumps that prevented myself from getting to this point. It seemed to be a little farther than it actually was.

"But to actually get here, everything's behind me. I can kind of start over here. I'm just glad to be here and thankful and ready to hit the ground running."

The versatile playmaker is expected to complement running back Adrian Peterson in Minnesota's ramped-up offense. During minicamps earlier this summer, Childress and Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell began experimenting with their new toy. They lined up Harvin at receiver out wide, in the slot, and motioned him into the backfield on reverses and other running plays.

Harvin's arrival also could bring a version of the Wildcat offense to Minnesota. Harvin and Peterson in the same backfield would give the Vikings a dynamic element that has been missing since Childress took over in 2006.

And Harvin could bolster the team's mediocre return game. His quickness and ability to change directions in a heartbeat make him ideal for the job.

"Return man. Slot. A little bit in the backfield," Harvin said. "The motions. The screens. I'm looking to be all over."

The Vikings threw Harvin right into the mix Sunday, giving him some time with the No. 1 offense during a goal-line installation and running reverses, catching passes and fielding kickoffs.

"He's playing big, he's playing fast, making turns like on the drop of a dime," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said, "and he's catching everything."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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