Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ended the week’s speculation Friday by ruling receiver Percy Harvin out for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink against the San Francisco 49ers.
Harvin suffered a concussion in the divisional-round playoff win over New Orleans, and did not advance through the accepted medical-recovery protocol in time to allow for his return.
“Just unfortunate circumstances,” Carroll said. “He’ll be back to practice next week.”
The Seahawks will need to defeat San Francisco for Harvin’s return next week to be relevant, as the conference title would earn Seattle its second Super Bowl trip in franchise history.
Harvin was the Seahawks’ big-ticket offseason acquisition, costing first-, third- and seventh-round draft choices as well as a $12.5 million signing bonus. But offseason hip surgery forced him to miss all but part of the Nov. 17 game against Minnesota and the first half of the game against the Saints last Sunday.
“He’ll be ready to go and get back on the field with us,” Carroll said of his expected recovery if needed next week. “We’ll be thrilled to have him back.”
The Seahawks won 13 regular-season games to claim the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage even without Harvin’s contributions, so they’ve adjusted to his absence.
“We have functioned the way we have because we don’t let things like that get to us and disturb how we’re thinking and how we’re preparing,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks’ offense will rely on the running back Marshawn Lynch, while the passing game will again focus on Golden Tate (64 catches) and Doug Baldwin (50).
“It’s a really competitive group,” Carroll said of his receivers. “Very clutch, tough. They block well; they do whatever we need them to do. We’ve got guys who can make big catches at crucial times. They’ve proven that over time.”
Saints safety Rafael Bush on Friday was fined $21,000 for his hit on Harvin in the first period. He was penalized 15 yards for roughness at the time. Harvin was examined after that hit and returned in the second period, when he struck his head on the turf after leaping for a ball he was unable to catch.
Baldwin cited the obvious impact of Harvin’s injury, “but we have more than enough guys who are capable of getting the job done,” he said.
On the upside of the injury report, Carroll said linebacker K.J. Wright has recovered from foot surgery and would be available for the game.
“I’m not 100 percent coming off an injury,” Wright said. “But at the same time, I’m football-ready. It’s the NFC Championship.”
Wright broke his foot in the last meeting against San Francisco on Dec. 8. “There’s a big screw in there,” Wright said of the surgery. He said he did not expect it to need further attention after the season.
“We’re really excited about (Wright’s return),” Carroll said. “It’s an incredible recovery to have surgery six weeks ago and now he’s playing. His mentality has been to play the whole time. He’s had a fine week of practice and we’re going to play him.”
Carroll would not say if he expected Wright to get back into the starting lineup or if his replacement, Malcolm Smith, would again get the start.
NINERS HEAD NORTH
The 49ers concluded their Bay Area practices Friday and were scheduled to fly into Seattle on Friday night.
The team usually flies to Seattle on the eve of the game, but coach Jim Harbaugh said he was approached by team leaders who suggested a Friday departure, thereby extending the routine that has resulted in road playoff wins at Green Bay and Carolina.
“They all came to that conclusion that that was the best thing for us,” Harbaugh said. “Be together an extra day. The majority of our road trips have been that. Really the only games when we don’t (usually do) that have been Seattle and Arizona. So, it’s a departure in one way, and in another way it’s the same.”
The 49ers’ final work at their Santa Clara, Calif., practice facility was conducted while music and crowd noise blared from a public address system – seemingly far louder than the background noise used by the Saints in New Orleans last week.
“Pretty loud,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick agreed. “Whether it helps or not, we’ll find out.”
TAKING VS. NOT GIVING
The Seahawks led the NFL in takeaways this season, while the 49ers were tied for second behind Indianapolis for fewest turnovers. The Niners are the NFL leader for fewest turnovers since 2011.
Harbaugh was asked if there is special emphasis for quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protect the ball.
“We do that with the whole team in terms of protecting the ball – daily, hourly,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman was more expansive when asked about why the Seahawks are so successful at takeaways.
“I think it starts with their speed,” he said. “A lot of their interceptions come off deflected passes. These guys cover a lot of ground. They’re very talented and fast at the linebacker position and at the safety position as well. I think it’s really nothing magical other than they disperse and cover the field really well and have really good speed and awareness.”
San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman was asked about tackling Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch
“Him being as physical as he is when he runs the ball, you don’t want to shoot your gun,” Bowman said. “You want to gather yourself and make sure you have him in front of you. And if you can do that you can definitely get him down or have a better chance of doing it. But a lot of guys shoot their gun, think he’ll fall down off of that. He just does a great job of fighting through it and breaking tackles. So, he’s a hard tackle, I will admit, but it can be done.”
Bowman was asked what he means by “shoot your gun.”
“You just sell out and hope the hit that you’re delivering knocks him down, instead of being fundamentally sound, gathering, forming up and tackling,” he explained.
A horse named “Harbaugh” is scheduled to run in the $100,000 California Derby at the Golden Gate Fields race track Saturday. As of Friday, the 3-year-old colt’s odds were 10-to-1. Harbaugh – the coach – gave this reaction: “Don’t underestimate him.”