Is Harvin upset with how he was used in the offense, is it the amount of time he was on the field or did his unhappiness have nothing to do with either of those topics. Frankly, no one on the outside knows for sure because Harvin and the Vikings both declined to get into specifics (the Vikings might be wondering exactly what the underlying issue is, too).
Harvin may have reason to be dissatisfied with his snaps on offense – he has been the team's most productive and explosive receiving option for two straight years yet was on the field only 58.4 percent of the offensive snaps. The year before, he played in only 60.9 percent of the snaps. Either way, that's not enough for the team's best receiving option and one of the league's best slot receivers.
But Harvin isn't the only one that could register that complaint. Tight end Kyle Rudolph could have a bigger beef, although Rudolph never let on if he was concerned about his lack of playing time. If it happens again this year, he would have every right to complain, although offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave might not survive another season if his offense, designed and purported to be tight end heavy, wouldn't maximize the use of one of the most promising young tight ends in a league that is beginning to burgeon with them.
What Rudolph showed in games last year, when he had 26 catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns, was only scratching the surface. He had several highlight-worthy catches during games, including a 19-yard touchdown that he plucked over the head of Broncos safety Quinton Carter (who was also flagged for pass interference) and was quickly dubbed a "can't miss play."
The 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end proved in practices there is a lot to like about his game that wasn't exposed on national television. With hands that engulf the ball (10-3/4 inches), he catches nearly everything he touches, and with an impressive wingspan of 80-5/8 inches, he snatches nearly everything in that mammoth catch radius.
Still, with all that athleticism and a better-than-ideal skill set, Rudolph only saw the field for 46.9 percent of the offensive snaps last year.
"It's one of those things where the coaching staff was getting to know me. I feel like we didn't have this time last year to get a feel for each other," Rudolph said. "Our offensive staff did a great job for us. … We are excited to have this time to build a relationship. Especially the tight ends as a whole, we feel we can make big plays in this offense."
From this corner, there is no doubt about it and there shouldn't be in the coaching ranks, either. Head coach Leslie Frazier praised Rudolph's abilities after seeing him in practices last year following the lockout, but Rudolph has to be a bigger part of the offense this year if the Vikings are going to maximize their best players.
Visanthe Shiancoe was the go-to tight end in the offense last year, playing in 76 percent of the offensive snaps. Jim Kleinsasser was called upon as the big blocking tight end and played in 38 percent of the snaps. Both of them are gone – Shiancoe hasn't been signed in free agency yet and Kleinsasser retired after 13 seasons in the NFL.
The Vikings were a top-six team in their use of both two- and three-tight end sets last year and the addition of John Carlson makes them more dangerous in the passing game. Where Carlson is probably better in short-area explosiveness, Rudolph can be the deep threat down the middle of the field.
"I think both those guys have different strengths," Musgrave said. "Initially we want to use them in the passing game. They're going to do the best they can blocking-wise and we're going to open holes for our backs any which way we can, but right now we're focused on getting those two guys in the passing game and ramping that department."
Musgrave should be focused on that. He has Harvin. He has the added deep-threat element on the outside with Jerome Simpson. And, if he uses him enough, he has a tight end in Rudolph that should be primed for a breakout season, perhaps one of the best in franchise history for a tight end.
Rudolph says he studies all the great pass-catching tight ends – Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski among them. If used properly and enough, he might just be the next great one.
THE HARVIN CONTRADICTIONS
Someone isn't being completely forthcoming in the Harvin saga.
Compare the comments from the triangle of characters that matter in the Harvin saga – Harvin himself, Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman.
Yet on the afternoon that reports emerged about Harvin requesting a trade, Spielman said he had talked with Harvin's agent, Joel Segal, a couple times. Harvin has two years left on his rookie contract (Spielman reiterated that the Vikings typically don't extend contracts until their final year), but would there have been a need to talk to the agent if the contract wasn't an issue? There might be if Harvin and Spielman aren't on the proverbial "same page."
"Me and cch have been speaking and are on same page...theres nothin I can do," Harvin also tweeted. We assume "cch" means coach and that the coach he is referring to is Frazier.
Frazier said he and Harvin are still on good terms.
"We still have a good relationship. There will always be things you have to work through. I think that will always be the case with players and coaches," Frazier said. "There is a line there, always, but I think we have a good relationship."
Before the Harvin saga, Frazier said he agrees with the organization's philosophy to rebuild with youth. Spielman, no doubt, is the spearheading force in letting 30-something veterans go and developing the younger players for the long term.
"The thing you have to understand when we're building a team, it's ‘we.' It's not `Rick,'" Frazier said during organized team activities. "Rick could not build this team without the head coach being in concert with him in doing that. That wouldn't be good for he or I.
"There isn't a decision that's made that the two of us don't talk about and agree upon. It would just not be good. So the decisions that have been made are decisions that were discussed and we were in agreement that this is the right thing to do. It's hard to build a team if the general manager and the head coach aren't on the same page. And we are, thank goodness."
What's interesting is that the new structure allows delineates duties between Frazier and Spielman. Frazier can continue as the coach who, like players, wants to win now, even if he does realize that the franchise might benefit more by building for the long term. But since it has become clear that the Spielman is ultimately in charge of personnel decisions, he can be the "bad guy" behind the scenes when needed and it should serve as a buffer for Frazier's relationship with the players.
It might take some time for the new power structure to pay off, but it clearly has its advantages – like the good cop, bad cop routine Frazier and Spielman can execute when a player isn't happy.
Former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb told NBC SportsTalk that he believes there is an "80 to 90 percent" chance he'll be on an NFL team in September. He claimed there are "about" three teams he is looking at. It's unclear if any teams are currently looking at the 35-year old who said he has dropped 15 to 20 pounds (he also claimed last year that he came into Vikings camp in great shape).
In six starts with the Vikings, McNabb completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked too cautious with the ball and that may have just been a case of not having the necessary skills anymore.
His last two seasons in the NFL each resulted in him losing the starting job. He was free to sign with any team last year after the Vikings released him, but even the Chicago Bears, who lost starter Jay Cutler to injury, turned to Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown instead of McNabb and lost five of their last six games on their way to an 8-8 record and missed out on the playoffs.
"I just want an opportunity to compete, going to a team with a solid defense, a run game and some weapons on the outside," McNabb told NFL Network earlier this year. "That's something I am accustomed to being in obviously (in) Philadelphia, and the two teams that I have been on (the Vikings and Redskins), there have been some ups and downs. But coming in, I just want an opportunity to compete, learn the offense and begin to build that bond with the guys in the locker room, so hopefully we can propel ourselves to get into the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.