MINNEAPOLIS – Percy Harvin isn't the only New York Jets wide receiver whose trip to Minnesota this weekend will be special.
Eric Decker hasn't been back in almost two years.
"Friends, family, everybody's coming to the game. It's always fun to go somewhere where you know a lot of people and haven't been for a while," Decker said. "So it will be an exciting time for me."
The requests for tickets to watch the Jets play the Vikings would have been voluminous in Decker's circles from his hometown of Cold Spring and the University of Minnesota, where he flourished into an NFL prospect. So he steered them away.
"I made them go to StubHub," Decker said.
He's plenty grateful for his roots, though. Then-Gophers coach Glen Mason was the only one to offer Decker a scholarship out of Rocori High School; otherwise he probably would've picked the nearby NCAA Division III school, St. John's. By the end of his college career, Decker was the program's all-time leader in receptions and yards.
"I'll always be a proud Golden Gopher," Decker said, adding: "Minnesota will always have a piece of my heart."
There hasn't been much to love about the Jets this season. After signing a five-year contract with a maximum value of $36.5 million, Decker has not been nearly as productive as he was the last two seasons with Denver and Peyton Manning. The Jets have the fewest yards passing in the league, with Geno Smith returning at quarterback after a brief takeover of the job by Michael Vick.
"I never have any regrets. People sometimes don't understand the free agency process. It's not like Denver was calling my agent to get me back," Decker said. He added: "I would have bet everything that I have that we wouldn't be in this situation."
The Jets (2-10) have averaged 12.5 points over the last four games.
"When you're a competitor and having two years prior of winning a lot of games, going to the playoffs, it's definitely a hard adjustment and no adjustment that any player wants to make," Decker said. "No one in this locker room or coaching staff or management wants to lose football games."
With little to lose, the Jets acquired Harvin in a midseason trade with Seattle. The Seahawks sent the Vikings three draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2013, for the multi-skilled yet moody player.
Harvin, like Decker, has not made much of an impact on an offense that has relied mostly on handing the ball to Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. But he had 129 yards receiving at Kansas City and carried the ball six times in the last game against Miami.
"I guess the reputation wasn't as good, but here he has been absolutely terrific to be around," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
The Vikings, more than any other team, are well aware of the difficulty Harvin poses for a defense.
"When you go to tackle Percy you better bring your big-boy shoes," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "He's as good as anybody getting off tackles and making people miss. You know the intensity he plays with, so we know him and who he is. We've played him now once already in Seattle, so I'm sure that has worn off a little bit. Maybe not him. We'll see. He can be an angry dude sometimes. Love him, though."
Harvin fondly remembered facing the Vikings last year with the Seahawks.
"I think I'm going to have a blast seeing the familiar faces," he said, adding: "It will all be fun for me."
Here are some key points to know about the game:
SUNDAY, FUN DAY? The Jets will play on Sunday afternoon for the first time in a month, a rare stretch for a struggling team. After their bye week, they've played on two straight Monday nights, the first because of snow that diverted their game at Buffalo to Detroit.
RISING RHODES: The Vikings used the first-round pick from the Seahawks in the Harvin trade on cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who has flourished in his second NFL season. He's tied for third in the league with 14 passes defensed.
"I didn't know about no trade," Rhodes said, laughing. "The only thing I knew was my name was getting called."
LOPSIDED SERIES: The Jets have won seven straight games against the Vikings and are 8-1 all-time against them, losing only in 1975 at Minnesota. The last time they played was in New Jersey in 2010, when Brett Favre threw his 500th career touchdown pass, to Randy Moss.
BOLD RUSH: The Jets ran the ball 49 times against Miami last week for a whopping 277 yards, so the Vikings are on guard. They've given up an average of more than 148 yards rushing over their last four games.
OLD FOES: Smith grew up in Miami, like Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They've faced each other before. Bridgewater's Louisville team beat Smith's West Virginia squad 38-35 in a 2011 game in the Big East. Bridgewater also led Northwestern to a 42-23 victory over Smith and Miramar in 2008 in the Florida Class 6A high school semifinals.
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