Vikings, disgruntled Harvin need each other
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When an NFL player, in this case Percy Harvin, goes to great lengths to tell the public there are issues with his employer — but doesn't disclose those issues — it does a disservice to both the player and his team.
Such is the case with Harvin and the Minnesota Vikings after the his comments Tuesday about being unhappy were quickly followed by a reported trade request Wednesday.
So what's eating at the Vikings' leading receiver?
The immediate thought was that Harvin was bristling about his contract — he has two years left on his original rookie deal and is owed $915,000 this season and $1.55 million in 2013 — a considerable bargain for Minnesota given Harvin's production since he was a 2009 first-round pick.
Harvin's role in the offense has always been a hot-button issue as well, with the playmaking receiver being on the field for only a little more than half the offensive snaps the past two seasons while the offense crumbled around him.
Or maybe there was a misunderstanding between Harvin and coach Leslie Frazier that had turned personal for the emotional receiver. A final long shot: Harvin is working his way back from a surprise shoulder surgery in April. Could there be issues with the training staff?
Without disclosure, media and fans are left to speculate, and the Wednesday morning report of Harvin's trade request amped up interest in his dissatisfaction. Wednesday night, Harvin piled on another layer of confusion when he tweeted that his issues weren't about money and that he is on the same page with his coach.
"Fans, I said I have issues to be worked out, money not at all being the problem...I've done everything asked and more," Harvin wrote on his Twitter page, adding: "Me and coach have been speaking and are on same page...there's nothing I can do."
What could it be, and what must the Vikings do to smooth over the situation?
A reconciliation right now would seem to be the best scenario for both parties.
Harvin is 24, is coming off a season in which he led Minnesota with 87 catches, 967 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. He added 52 carries for 345 yards and two scores to become a serious go-to offensive threat. Without many established receivers on the roster, the Vikings need Harvin. They need his playmaking ability as Christian Ponder tries to develop into a franchise quarterback in his second season, and they need him for an offense that could be missing running back Adrian Peterson early on. For his part, Harvin needs to remain a key part of the Vikings' offense to get the payday he'll surely want, either now or one or two years from now.
It would almost be easier for Minnesota if it were about the money. Surely the Vikings would like to keep one of their top playmakers in the fold for the foreseeable future. But Harvin's skill set and unpredictability have to be taken into consideration.
For all of his considerable talents, Harvin isn't regarded as the type of receiver who is a true No. 1, a vertical threat. He doesn't have the size of a Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson. He has also shown a willingness to take problems public and likes to leave enough doubt about what's bothering him that it creates a distraction. There are also his multiple injuries — which, to his credit, he has played through — past migraine problems and his testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine in 2009, which accounted for him slipping to the Vikings with the 22nd pick.
Harvin has two years remaining on his deal, and as Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman pointed out earlier on Wednesday, it is the team's philosophy to consider extensions for its key players entering the final year of their contracts, a situation that doesn't apply to Harvin.
But Harvin said it's not about the money.
This is all coming from a player who had wanted to take on more of a leadership role with the Vikings. He tried to rally teammates to participate in the voluntary offseason program, which he also attended.
But this isn't the move of a leader and even contradicts Harvin's own words. After saying he was unhappy with a couple of issues Tuesday, he immediately said things should be kept in-house. After participating in practice later Tuesday, Harvin said he didn't want to be a distraction only to have the report of his trade request come out the next morning.
Harvin has gone outside the house to air his grievances, and the distraction Wednesday was evident at the team's minicamp. Now, as the team is ready to part ways until training camp, everyone is left to wonder what the problems are and how big of a distraction they will be when the Vikings show up in Mankato.
The season is closer than it seems, and there's little room for more days like Wednesday for a team that won only three games last season.
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