Character not a concern with Harvin

There was a lot of discussion in the days leading up to the draft that, while perhaps one of the draft's top playmakers, some character and durability issues would prevent teams like the Vikings from drafting Percy Harvin. But, when the time came to make their pick, the Vikings had no hesitation in taking the talented wide receiver.

If the fan reaction at the annual draft party at Winter Park was any indication, the selection of wide receiver Percy Harvin was the only choice the Vikings could have made. The fans gave the pick a standing ovation and thunderous applause. That sentiment was shared by the team's decision-makers as well, who felt they got a player at pick No. 22 that should have already been long gone.

"I can't tell you how excited we are to have such an explosive playmaker," said Rick Spielman, vice president of player personnel. "To put him on the field with the Adrian Petersons of the world and the Bernard Berrians of the world. We felt when we evaluated just on football – between the lines – that he was definitely a top-10 pick."

Harvin, who has had some red flags against him ranging from injuries to testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, was a player that some felt might have too many negatives against him that could affect his draft status with the Vikings, a team that has a motto of creating a "culture of accountability." Spielman said that the injury questions that surrounded Adrian Peterson allowed him to slide to the Vikings at No. 7 and that he had much the same sensation Saturday with Harvin.

"We felt comfortable enough that he was too explosive of a playmaker and too hard to pass up where we were picking," Spielman said. "This scenario was almost like when Adrian Peterson was there at No. 7. He's that high on your board. He's that explosive of a playmaker. You just can't pass up good football players like that – if you feel comfortable with everything that comes along with him. We felt more than comfortable with that."

The Vikings were content to remain in their spot at No. 22 and hoped that Harvin would remain on the board, but Spielman said that landing the talented wide receiver was far from certain.

"There was the potential that he was sliding because of (his off-field) issues," Spielman said. "But I also know that there were a couple of teams trying to jump us and I know one of the teams for sure had him pegged as one of their players.

"There was a lot of activity right before (our pick) and a lot of teams calling that were behind us to come up to our spot," Spielman said. "Our spot seemed to be a hot spot. It started to get real hot last night. I fielded a lot of calls yesterday afternoon."

The Vikings did a lot of homework before committing to Harvin. Aside from talking to him at the Combine, Spielman and receivers coach George Stewart attended Harvin's Pro Day, and this past week Childress personally visited Harvin and his family in Florida. There was a sentiment that Childress might be the dissenting voice in terms of drafting Harvin, but said he came away from his meeting with a respect for Harvin and any concerns he may have had went away quickly.

"I went down to that meeting with questions I needed to have satisfied," Childress said. "I mentioned to he and his family that this reminded of recruiting. Here's the difference – you're not picking, we're picking. I kind of hit his mom, grandma, stepdad and sister – it was illuminating when they looked at it that way."

When Childress returned from his visit with Harvin, the top management people consulted with owner Zygi Wilf, who signed off as well – giving the green light to adding the young playmaker.

"The coach and Rick (Spielman) did all the due diligence that you have to do," Wilf said. "I think people know our organization, we got a player with character who will be a great addition to our team."

With the potential reservations about Harvin's character and injury history out of the way, the team is now focused on what he can do on the field. Like 2007, Childress said he is excited about the game-breaking potential Harvin can add to the Vikings offense from Day One.

"One of the things he brings to the table is that he is an explosive playmaker," Childress said. "If you went back a couple of years ago when we got a guy like Adrian Peterson, there's no downside to adding those guys that can explode."

The Vikings believe their veteran leaders will take Harvin under their wing and provide strong leadership, along with Stewart – who handled a volatile receiver in Terrell Owens when both were in San Francisco.

"We feel we have a very strong locker room and a strong support staff," Spielman said. "George Stewart has handled a lot of character-type receivers and has done an outstanding job."

How the Vikings will incorporate Harvin into the offense is yet to be seen, but anyone who has seen him play knows he brings a lot of explosive qualities and variety to getting in space and making big plays happen.

"He's more of a slot guy," Spielman said. "He's played running back. He's been used in Wildcat (formations). He's played slot. They've put him in motion from outside wide and given him reverses. You can do a variety of things with him just because of the talent he is."

For those who thought the Vikings wouldn't take a player like Harvin, their surprise was accompanied by jubilation that the team has added another offensive talent that could make the Vikings one of the most explosive teams in the league. In the end, Childress said that Harvin isn't the bad boy for which he has been portrayed and that he comes to the Vikings with a clean slate.

"I think he's a guy that's made a mistake," Childress said. "We've all made mistakes. The big thing is that you look him in the eye, recognize what it is and admit to it. How you deal with adversity is you go forward. Do you bury it or do you fix it. That's part of growing up and the growing process."


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