ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Retirement proved to be temporary for Percy Harvin, the once-dynamic playmaker who's back in the NFL and returning to Buffalo to reinforce the Bills injury-depleted group of receivers.
Using the past six months to rest his mind and rehab numerous injuries that led him to walk away from football in April, Harvin was back on the practice field Tuesday, shortly after signing a one-year contract.
''It felt good, just the smell of the grass again, the smell of the pads when I walked in the locker room,'' Harvin said. ''Man, when you're away from it, you miss so much of those things.''
Then, breaking into a smile as beads of sweat dribbled down his forehead, he added: ''The time I took it was well needed. But it was time to go back to work.''
Harvin returns to the team he essentially walked out on a year ago, when he elected not to travel overseas for Buffalo's game at London. He blamed that decision on the personal frustrations he felt in being in constant pain from a knee injury that was also affecting his hip.
Limited to playing just five games last season, Harvin finished with 19 catches for 218 yards and a touchdown before being placed on the season-ending injured reserve .
He said he had surgery on one of his knees in January, and spent much of his time off working out.
The only question mark is when the 28-year-old might be ready to play.
''We'll see. I think I could,'' Harvin said, when asked if he might be available to play on Monday night, when the Bills (4-4) travel to play Seattle (4-2-1).
He cautioned he wasn't going to rush back and risk being hurt, even if it meant missing a game against one of his former teams.
''I just want to be the best I can be and play at the level that I know I can,'' Harvin said.
A more realistic expectation would have Harvin making his debut at Cincinnati on Nov. 20, once the Bills return from their bye week.
Staying healthy has been an issue for Harvin, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2009. In his first four seasons in Minnesota, he combined for 3,302 yards receiving and 29 touchdowns (including four rushing and five returns). Over the past three years, he's managed just 728 yards receiving and three scores combined with three teams.
Though the Bills are taking a wait-and-see approach with Harvin, they need immediate help given the state of their banged-up offense.
Their top receiving threat, Sammy Watkins (left foot), is on injured reserve and not eligible to begin practicing for another three weeks. No. 2 receiver Robert Woods is playing despite an injury to his right foot. And speedster Marquise Goodwin's status is uncertain after missing one game because of a concussion.
''I wouldn't say desperate, but we're always looking no matter what position to upgrade,'' general manager Doug Whaley said.
Whaley understood the reasons behind Harvin's decision to retire in April. And yet he made sure to keep tabs on Harvin in the event he might have a change of heart.
''Once we started going down this road, we said, `Maybe after getting healthy, let's see where his mind is,''' Whaley said. ''When we reached out, he said he was interested, and now he's with the Buffalo Bills.''
Harvin didn't give resuming his career much thought until he started to begin feeling healthy last summer. Even then, he didn't want to make a snap decision.
It wasn't until the Bills contacted him about two weeks ago, when Harvin was forced to make up his mind.
''I kind of just walked around my house for a few hours still not knowing whether I was going to come back or not,'' Harvin recalled.
He decided to return after consulting with his family and friends, including several retired NFL players.
It helps, too, that he's familiar with Bills players, the offensive playbook and coaching staff.
''That's my boy, I'm definitely excited,'' quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. Taylor and Harvin grew up in the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area and played high school football and basketball against each other.
''Percy obviously is a dynamic playmaker,'' said fullback Jerome Felton, who also played with Harvin in Minnesota. ''If he's healthy, you're adding an A-plus player to the team.''
In signing Harvin, Buffalo freed up a roster spot by placing starting safety Aaron Williams on injured reserve.
Though under contract through 2018, Williams' career is in question after sustaining his second neck injury in just over a calendar year in a 28-25 loss at Miami on Oct. 23, when he was blindsided by Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry.
Last week, his father told The Associated Press that Williams plans to wait until the offseason to determine whether to continue playing.
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