Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
The Percy Harvin saga took another turn Wednesday afternoon when Harvin was not on the field for the Vikings' practice session at mini-camp.
Before that session, Vikings GM Rick Spielman said the team has no intention of trading Harvin. Harvin, apparently upset over his contract, has asked for a trade. He has two years left on his five-year, $12 million deal.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier deferred to Spielman’s earlier comments without much elaboration. For example:
On Harvin missing practice: “I know Rick had a chance to to meet with you guys and talk about how we feel in regards to Percy,” Frazier said. “I’ll kind of leave it at that.”
On why Harvin missed practice: “I don’t want to get into that until we have a chance to have an extensive conversation,” Frazier said.
On whether Harvin would be at the mini-camp’s final practice Thursday: “You know, I’m not sure,” Frazier said. “Whether we talk today or in the morning will probably determine that. But I’d really rather concentrate on the guys who are here.
What Frazier did say was that he still planed a sit-down meeting with Harvin.
There is no question the Vikings were taken by surprise by Harvin’s comments and actions this week. Frazier talked about how unpredictable football could be. Harvin would likely be eligible to be fined should he miss another practice Thursday. Teams are allowed to fine a player $10,000 for missing one mini-camp session, $20,000 for missing two and $60,000 for missing all three.
That said, Frazier reiterated that he felt whatever issues were bothering Harvin could be ironed out before training camp. “I don’t know what could keep it from getting worked out,” he said. “Whatever it is. So we’ll see.”
Spielman said he regards Harvin as a cornerstone of the team.
“I feel confident we can work through anything that needs to be worked through,” Spielman said.
On Tuesday Harvin said he was unhappy with the team, but didn’t say why. That led to speculation that it could concern his contract -- which has two years remaining – or his role in the offense. That speculation intensified with Wednesday’s report that Harvin had asked for a trade.
Spielman didn’t add any clarity to what the issue – or issues – might be. Indeed, Spielman didn’t even officially confirm that a trade request had been made.
He did make a couple of things clear, though.
“We have no interest at all of trading Percy Harvin,” he said. “We drafted Percy Harvin here. He’s a key part of our organization. He’s a key part of our football team. Any issues that are out there, or reported, we always handle those things internally.”
Spielman said he had not yet spoken with Harvin, but that Frazier had. Spielman said he had spoken to Harvin’s agent, Joel Segal, “a few times.”
But, just what has prompted Harvin’s request for a trade remains unclear. Earlier Wednesday offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he was unaware of any issues Harvin might have with his role in the offense, and described his relationship with Harvin as “outstanding.”
Spielman said the team usually addresses a contract extension when a player is entering the final year of his current deal.
As for Harvin going public? “Sometimes you can’t control that,” he said. “It’s part of what we have to deal with sometimes. Percy is a very good person. And we’ll get all the issues resolved. … It’s an issue we have to deal with, with coach Frazier and myself.”
Running back Adrian Peterson said he learned about Harvin’s issues with the team when he was lying in bed, watching TV. “I saw it go across the screen,” Peterson said. “Whatever the issue is, I’m sure they’ll get things squared away.”
Peterson was asked if the situation was a distraction. No, he said, more of a bother.
“You definitely don’t want to lose this guy,” Peterson said. “I’m sure the organization will do what it has to do to keep this guy around. If it was me, I’d make sure we kept him around. But we’ll see.”
Peterson said he planned to talk with Harvin to see if he could help him get things smoothed over with the team.
“First I’ll have to sit down and see what’s bothering him,” he said. “We’re grown men, I’m sure he’s going to do what his mind is set [on]. Personally, I think everything will be OK.”
Meanwhile, in non-Harvin news ...
Peterson has been very active along the sidelines at Winter Park during mini-camp. The All-Pro running back remains on a fast recovery from December surgery to repair torn knee ligaments.
“It’s pretty much wide open. I’m able to go out and do everything — cutting and different things like that. Flexibility is good,” Peterson said.
“Main thing for me right now is really getting the strength back in this left leg, getting the quad back strong, getting the hamstring and the calf, building those muscles, trying to get it equal or stronger than the right leg.”
Although Peterson remains optimistic his intensive rehab program will prepare him for training camp, which begins July 26 in Mankato. He wants to play in the season opener Sept. 9 against Jacksonville at the Metrodome.
“My goal is to be able to go out and participate somewhat during training camp,” Peterson said. “That’s my goal. How much? I’m sure the staff, they’ll evaluate things and they’ll let me know.”
All players were present and accounted for at Vikings minicamp today, but there was at least one unhappy camper.
Percy Harvin, the Vikings Pro Bowl receiver and kick returner, made it pretty clear that he is unhappy with his contract. Without directly saying so, he said "issues" are involved and unless they are resolved he won't report to the team's training camp in Mankato in late July.
Asked several different times about the contract, Harvin never mentioned that word directly. Harvin has two years left on a five-year deal he got as a rookie in 2009.
"I’m just not happy, I won’t go into how unhappy I’m not, I’m just not overall happy with a couple of situations, and hopefully they get worked out," he said.
Coach Leslie Frazier said he had spoken with Harvin. Frazier also wouldn't say what the "issue" was, but added, "It's not something we can't handle. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be at (training) camp. It's something we will talk through."
Harvin, 24, participated in some of the team's optional workouts during the past month. His rookie contract was worth a little more than $12 million. The final two years of his contract call for base salaries of 915,000 and $1.55 million. With potential bonuses, those two years could be worth slightly more than $2.5 million.
Harvin had 87 catches and 1,312 total offensive yards last season – he was not on the field for about 40 percent of the team’s snaps, however.
In other news ...
Jared Allen, who did not participate in the team's Organized Team Activities, said he was happy with his offseason routine and that was why he didn't show up at practice until the minicamp, which is mandatory. There were no OTAs or mini-camps last season because of the NFL lockout, and Allen had a near-record 22 sacks during the season.
Chad Greenway, who missed OTAs because his father has leukemia, was present this morning and spoke optimistically about his father's battle. Greenway said his father's cancer is in remission, but that he was undergoing treatment at Rochester's Mayo Clinic.
Eric Frampton (illness) did not practice.
Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was held out of practice with a hip issue connected to the surgery that kept him out of last season. Brinkley said the issue was not a major one and that he expected to take part in practice before the mini-camp ended. Tyrone McKenzie played with the first unit in Brinkley's place.
The Vikings announced the signing of six draft choices today, leaving four unsigned -- including first-rounders Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith.
Signed were fourth rounders Jarius Wright (WR, Arkansas) and Greg Childs (WR, Arkansas); fifth rounder Robert Blanton (DB, Notre Dame); sixth-rounder Blair Walsh (K, Georgia); and seventh-rounders Audie Cole (LB, North Carolina State) and Trevor Guyton (DT, Cal).
Update: The Vikings have also agreed to terms with fourth-rounder Rhett Ellison, a tight end from USC. That means in addition to Kalil and Smith, the Vikings have yet to reach an agreement with second-round choice Josh Robinson, a cornerback out of Central Florida.
Not that any of that is a big deal. The start of training camp is still nine weeks away. And given the structure of the new collective bargaining agreement, there's not a whole lot for either side to negotiate. The days of rookies holding out into training camp are a thing of the past given the new rookie wage structure and the fixed length of all rookie deals.
When the NFL lockout ended last July, a new rookie pay system was put in place. Under that system, all drafted rookies -- including the six the Vikings signed today -- get four-year deals. The contracts for first-round draft choices also have a club option for a fifth season. That option, however, must be exercised after the players' third year. And the new C.B.A. formula dictates that for a team to use that fifth-year option on a player selected in the top 10, they will have to pay a Year 5 amount that is the average of the 10 highest-paid players at that position in the previous year.
In other words, if the Vikings decide to use their fifth-year option in Kalil, they will have to make that decision between the 2014 and 2015 seasons and then in 2016 (Kalil's fifth season), the standout offensive lineman would earn the average of what the 10 highest paid left tackles made in 2015.
Hey, we said the system has made contract talks far easier than they were in the past. But we didn't promise the elimination of all confusion.
Ryan Longwell and the Vikings have parted ways before what would have been his 16th season in the NFL and seventh with the Vikings.
The team confirmed he had been cut today with this release on their web site: The Vikings on Monday released K Ryan Longwell, a 16-year veteran who spent the past 6 seasons with the Vikings. “Ryan has meant a great deal to the Vikings organization both on and off field over the past six seasons,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said. “We wish him all the best in the future and thank him for his service to the Minnesota Vikings.” Longwell is the Green Bay Packers all-time leading scorer (1,054 points) and also ranks as the 3rd all-time leading scorer in Vikings history with 633 points over his 6 seasons in Minnesota.
The veteran kicker tweeted from @4thandlongwell: To all in Viking Nation. Can't thank you enough for your cheers over the past 6 years! You've been awesome to me and my family. God Bless!
The Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh out of Georgia in the sixth round of last month's draft.
Longwell will be 38 before the next NFL season. He missed six field-goal attempts last season, and clearly the team's youth plan is going forward full steam.
Longwell played nine seasons for the Packers before signing with the Vikings as a free agent in 2006.
In 15 NFL seasons, Longwell made 361 of 434 field goal attempts and 604 out of 613 extra point attempts. His 1,687 points is 13th best in NFL history.
Longwell's four-year, $12 million contract runs was signed before the 2011 season, and he got a $3.5 million signing bonus. NFL contracts, of course, are not guaranteed, so the bonus payout is always the key figure.
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