Scoggins: Harvin has baggage, but not enough to send him packing

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2012 - 11:15 PM
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Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin

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The Vikings report to training camp July 26, which means the team has a month to resolve whatever it is that triggered Percy Harvin's screwball antics last week.

That's assuming Petulant Percy doesn't reappear and profess his unhappiness with some other undisclosed issue. In the meantime, the Vikings also must consider a larger, overriding question regarding their talented and temperamental wide receiver.

What do they do with this guy?

Until last week, that answer was probably fairly easy. Sign him to a lucrative long-term extension and then sit back and enjoy his talent. The way he explodes in open field, pinballs off defenders, fights for every inch possible. Harvin gives every ounce of himself on Sundays. You'll never hear him say he plays when he wants to play.

Everyone loves that guy, Positive Percy. That player showed up on the first day of optional workouts proclaiming he would lead the way out of a three-win abyss. Harvin loathes OTAs and spending his offseason in Minnesota so maybe, just maybe, he really took this new leadership responsibility to heart.

But now? How can you feel that confident after witnessing Petulant Percy, a guy who requests to be traded and then pretends it didn't happen 24 hours later? How can you blindly trust someone who broadcasts his unhappiness multiple times -- while also declaring that he keeps his issues "in house" -- and hinted at a training camp holdout after being asked a harmless question about his shoulder injury?

And how do you think his veteran teammates felt privately about his skipping a mandatory practice and then posting on Twitter that he's "clueless on the crazy reports."

He's clueless all right. And the only thing crazy about the reports was the fact Harvin implied that nothing happened and he'll just see everyone in Mankato later this summer.

The Vikings used their damage control message to highlight how much Harvin means to the organization long term. They insisted they won't trade him, nor should they. Harvin has two years remaining on his rookie deal and should receive an extension after this season, if not sooner.

Harvin is too important to just cut loose. But the Vikings also understand they occasionally must endure those instances when Harvin is moody or -- as we saw last week -- a drama diva.

This is the dilemma the Vikings face with him. Harvin is one of the team's few difference-makers on offense, respected by peers, popular among fans and was voted by media -- me included -- as recipient of the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award last season. (Just a hunch, but he probably won't be a repeat winner.)

He's also the same guy who reportedly hurled a weight at one head coach (Brad Childress) during a tantrum, demanded a trade from another head coach (Leslie Frazier) because he's unhappy and can be as unpredictable as kindergarten recess.

The Vikings knew these risks existed when they drafted Harvin, but he is so freakishly athletic and competitive that coaches at every stop have tolerated his personality. Of course, we still don't know what's bugging Harvin or the true depths of his unhappiness.

Harvin tweeted that it's not about money, but it's always about money to some degree. Harvin is due to make $915,000 in base salary, which is cheap relative to his production, stature within the game and importance to the team. That overlooks two key points, however. This is Harvin's rookie deal and he reportedly failed a drug test at the scouting combine before the draft. That probably caused him to fall 10 to 12 spots, costing himself millions. That's not the fault of the Vikings, the NFL or anyone else. That's on Harvin.

If his frustration stems from playing time, Harvin has a legitimate gripe (which still doesn't excuse his tact in addressing the problem). Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's utilization of Harvin last season was confounding and infuriating. Harvin played only 58.8 percent of their offensive snaps, according to the website ProFootballFocus. That makes no sense on any level and simply cannot happen again. Harvin is a game-changer. Get him on the field and put the ball in his hands. A lot.

Presumably, the Vikings will hammer home that message between now and training camp, hoping that turns Harvin's frown upside down. A few positive contract discussions probably won't hurt either.

The Vikings made it clear Harvin remains an integral piece of their long-term plans, which, if true, means they will have to hand him a new contract and hefty signing bonus sometime in the near future. They should probably cross their fingers at the same time.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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