The strange saga of Percy Harvin at the Vikings minicamp last month sent a scare into Vikings fans, as an interview let the word get out that he wasn't happy with the situation he was in.
The Harvin malaise was immediately believed to be due to his contract. Still playing under his rookie deal, Harvin has outplayed his contract and, if anyone is deserving of getting a new deal done, he would appear to be the most logical player to ink to a long-term contract.
Once the word got out, Harvin was requested a trade. It would appear the differences that Harvin and the Vikings have, while not settled, have at least been aired between himself and the coaching staff. On Friday night, ESPN reported that a team source has said that Harvin will report to Mankato for the start of training camp on time.
It remains a mystery as to what the source of Harvin's discontent is. Whether you agree with his motivation or not, one thing that can be said about Harvin is that he gives his all on the field and is vital to the Vikings offensive success. A little piece of trivia: who was the only Viking to have at least one reception in every game last year? Harvin. Who was the only player to have at least one rushing attempt in every game last year? Harvin.
It may be that, at the heart of Harvin's issue with the Vikings is about how he is used. Last year, head coach Leslie Frazier made the decision to pull Harvin from kick return duties – a move that puzzled many fans given that almost half of all kickoffs last year weren't returned because the NFL moved the kickoff line from the 30- to the 35-yard line in hopes of reducing injuries on kickoffs. Harvin showed what a difference he could make on the first play of the 2011 season at San Diego when the Vikings took the opening kickoff and brought it back for a touchdown.
What may be part of Harvin's anger is that he wants to be a bigger part of the offense and it appears as though the Vikings are going in a different direction offensively. The Vikes didn't do much in free agency this year, but two of their bigger signings were tight end John Carlson and wide receiver Jerome Simpson – two players who it would appear would potentially cut into Harvin's time as a go-to receiver.
There are few players who have the impact that Harvin has on the game – his ability as a receiver, a runner and a return man are rare commodities that the Vikings have tried to find a way to utilize. At Florida, head coach Urban Meyer found ways to get Harvin involved in the offense. There were some critics who wondered how Harvin would translate his tailor-made skill set to the NFL. Was he a pure wide receiver coming out of college? Was he an undersized running back with a wide receiver's number? Meyer made no bones about it when interviewed by the Vikings media following the draft, calling Harvin the best pure athlete he's ever coached (which was saying something since he still had Tim Tebow at the time and found unorthodox ways to use him), suggesting that the Vikings should change how they run their offense to best utilize Harvin.
While few believe that Harvin's differences with the Vikings aren't related to his contract, whether it's that the team hasn't approached him about a long-term extension or the incentives in his rookie deal that are tied into production and playing time.
Until the Vikings and Harvin come to an agreement on a contract extension, he likely will remain "unhappy" with his status on the roster. He has become a leader on the offense and deserves to be paid like one. Until that happens, it will remain a point of contention. But, the good news is that all signs point to Harvin being in camp and ready to go when the team hits Mankato in three weeks. That may be the first signal that a contract extension is coming…and might be coming sooner than later. A happy Harvin is a Harvin that is being paid. Given that he was the team's leading receiver in 2011 – he was the only Viking with more than 40 catches last year and had more receptions than the next two Vikings combined – was a dynamic running threat (only Adrian Peterson had more rushing TDs) and can change a game as a returner, it's hard to pigeon-hole Harvin's role on the team. He's like Devin Hester with more skill and playmaking ability on offense and special teams. Will that translate into a contract offer worthy of a No. 1 receiver in an NFL offense? Stay tuned.
Harvin will report to camp
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