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.
In 2012, Adrian Peterson became the seventh player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, exploding through an MVP campaign that saw him rush for 2,097 yards.
Three years earlier, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson beat Peterson to that milestone, tallying 2,006 yards in just his second season in the league.
Somewhere along the line, Peterson and Johnson have become permanently linked. So occasionally, debates will spring up as to who the more explosive back really is. And while Peterson would probably win the popular vote easily in such conversations, Johnson has been productive enough during his five years in the NFL to continue nipping at Peterson’s heels.
Johnson signed his blockbuster contract with the Titans in 2011, inking an extension worth $53.5 million over four years. Peterson landed his big payday less than two weeks later: seven years, $100 million.
And now Peterson, coming off the best season in his career, finds himself rolling his eyes at Johnson’s recent assertion that he will win the 2013 rushing title. After all, that’s a championship belt Peterson has no intent on giving up.
Last week on ESPN, Johnson said he would indeed outrush Peterson in 2013. (To put it in context and to be fair to Johnson, ESPN’s Trey Wingo asked who would rack up more rushing yardage next season: Johnson or Peterson. So naturally, the Titans back voted for himself. What else was he supposed to do?)
“I’m very confident,” Johnson said. “I’ve always been a confident guy. And in this situation if you want something to happen, you’ve got to speak on it. You’ve got to believe on it. And you’ve just got to pray and God will lead you there.”
Sounds very similar to the philosophy Peterson has employed throughout his career and is using to fuel his next chase: a possible 2,500-yard season in 2013.
Yet as the Vikings star has received more and more questions about Johnson’s recent comments, he fired a barb back at Johnson on Twitter on Monday.
Why would or should I care about what CJ has to say? Before you tweet what he's saying, ask yourself that question! MVPeterson— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 4, 2013
For what it’s worth, Peterson has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 1,475 yards per season during his six NFL seasons. Johnson has averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 1,378 yards per season during his five years in Tennessee.
Having played one more full season, Peterson also holds an 80-48 advantage in touchdowns.
It’s now been 54 days since Adrian Peterson completed one of the most remarkable running back seasons of all-time. For months, everyone around football marveled about how Peterson bounced back from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments to post 2,097 rushing yards, the second most prolific single-season output in NFL history. Peterson was rewarded for his efforts with the league MVP award. And if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, then it was learned earlier this month that Peterson played the final six games of the season with a painful sports hernia. That injury caused the Vikings to significantly cut back on his practice time. In December, for example, Peterson essentially only went through practice on Fridays. And yet in the Vikings’ five games in the season’s final month, Peterson totaled 861 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
This morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier shared more details on Peterson’s injury and reiterated his amazement in the running back’s ability to not only play through pain but to continue producing at such a high level. Here is an excerpt from that exchange.
A year ago at this event, you were talking about the need to throttle Adrian back as he was trying to accelerate his recovery timetable and rehab workload. But after what he showed in recovering from an ACL, is something like sports hernia surgery simply like a hangnail for him?
“When he had that injury and we were monitoring in his practices – as you guys remember, we were holding him out And then he’d practice on Friday -- and then he’d go out and play the way he did on Sundays, it was just amazing. ACL? Sports hernia? And to play the way he played? So this surgery, it’s like a piece of cake after the ACL and what he was able to accomplish. But he’s unique. He’s very unique.”
When that injury first happened, did you internally wonder if his reps would have to be cut back in games? Because that lingered for a month-and-a-half?
“We did. There were times I’d be telling [running backs coach] James Saxon on the headset, ‘Watch him on this carry. See if we have to take him out.’ And I’d talk to Adrian on those Fridays when he would get in some practice time and say, ‘What do you think?’ And he’d say, ‘Coach, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready.’ But I couldn’t always tell if he was going to be ready. And then you’d go through warm-ups in pregame and it was like, man, it looks like he’s going to be OK. But in the back of your mind you’re just wondering can he finish. And then he’d break a long run and you’re like, ‘He’s different.’”
So the only game where it held him back was Houston?
“That was probably the game that it bothered him the worst. That game. You probably saw him grabbing (the injury) in that ballgame. That’s when I remember telling our coaches, ‘That’s it for him.’ And we pulled him in that ballgame. That game was the worst.”
Were there other games where you noticed anything else with that?
“Yeah, there were other games where I’d look and I’d see him not quite where I thought he would be and we’d talk to him and just see what he felt and then he’d go back out and he’d finish and he’d play well.”
What specifically was his discomfort?
“He just had pain when he was raising the leg up. With the sports hernia, it’s like that. When you run or sprint, that’s where you’re going to get the catch [and the pain]. But, to our amazement, his ability to block out that part of it and still perform at the level that he performed at, it’s just amazing. Because it’s not an area where you’re going to be taking shots or anything like that. It’s just a matter of your tolerance.”
And you were comfortable he couldn’t do more damage to that? I’d imagine if it was a torn MCL or something like that, the approach would have been completely different?
“Yeah, completely different. Completely different. But we were always monitoring how he was doing, where he was, giving him treatment. He’d make progress. But the Houston game was probably the one game where he was really set back and there was a push to get him ready for the next game. I don’t remember who we played the next ballgame.”
It was the Packers. Regular season finale. 199 yards.
“Yeah. So to get him ready for that ballgame, we were concerned going into that ballgame how he was going to perform. And then … Incredible.”
After the season, were you concerned or talk to him at all. Because he went and played in the Pro Bowl?
“I know. That was something he had his heart set on and felt like he could protect himself. And the coaches over there, they did a good job, too. They didn’t stress him, so it worked out good. They knew. Mike McCarthy and his staff, they knew.”
The NFL Combine officially gets underway Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. And while the hype of the event will center mostly around the 40-yard dash times, bench press reps and shuttle runs of the more than 300 draft prospects invited to participate, some of the most significant action of the week occurs behind the scenes as NFL general managers and front office personnel meet with agents to begin discussing the approach of free agency.
At this stage, league rules state that teams are only allowed to talk with the agents of their own players. So with the Vikings needing to make decisions on 10 unrestricted free agents who are scheduled to hit the open market March 12, here’s our quick update on where we think things might be headed.
Today, we look at the six offensive free agents.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is fully sincere when he expresses his desire to retain continuity on the offensive line. Which makes Loadholt, the starting right tackle, a top in-house priority. But the Vikings don’t have full control of the situation. Loadholt and agent Gary Uberstine will almost certainly take a pulse on outside interest to get a feel for what kind of demand exists and what kind of asking price they can set. Loadholt has shown growth in his four seasons in the league. And he continues to be a mauler in the running game. The Vikings would certainly love to have him back. And he’d love to be back. But there are also business dynamics at play that will create some complexity.
The likely move: This one could get tricky. In some ways, it’s a bit of a surprise Loadholt hasn’t already re-signed. But that could be an indication that the tackle and his representatives believe there might be more out there for them than anything the Vikings have proposed to this point. Diminishing the Vikings’ leverage is the reality that there aren’t likely to be many top-tier replacement options for Loadholt on the free agent market or in the draft. And it’s hard to believe that Kevin Murphy, a practice squader in 2012, or DeMarcus Love, a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 who has yet to be active for an NFL game, would provide enough confidence for the Vikings to let Loadholt get away. Of course, there’s always the option of stamping Loadholt with a franchise tag or transition tag. But those options seem highly unlikely given the price of doing so for offensive linemen.
This should be the Vikings’ easiest decision amongst their in-house free agents. Last offseason, Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier were convinced Adrian Peterson could see a spike in productivity if he had a rugged and dependable fullback ahead of him. Then Felton came to town on a one-year deal, helped spark Peterson to a 2,097-yard rushing season and made his first Pro Bowl. The 26-year-old bruiser appreciates the opportunity he was given and the situation he is in and had made it very clear that he wants to stick around for a while. Which is exactly what the Vikings seem to want too. At this point, it’s simply a matter of Felton’s camp and the Vikings front office getting on the same page with Felton’s value and then setting the appropriate length of the next contract.
The likely move: Felton will almost certainly be re-signed. But it may not necessarily come before the free agent market opens. As a matter of business principal, Felton and his agent will listen to other teams to gauge an appropriate market value, then push the Vikings to deliver accordingly. Still, this deal should get done without many headaches.
Signed to a one-year deal worth approximately $2 million last April, Simpson had a 2012 run that was majorly disappointing. He missed the season’s first three games due to a league suspension, flashed promise in his Vikings debut Detroit, then suffered an odd lower back/leg injury that hindered him in Week 5, made him inactive in Week 6 and then limited him to 11 catches and 126 yards over the next seven games. Yeah, this isn’t what anybody had in mind a year ago. And as the season dragged on, the effervescence Simpson showed during training camp was replaced by a frustrated and somewhat testy deportment.
The likely move: It’s up to the Vikings to determine just how much Simpson’s back ailment contributed to his production struggles. If there’s a) a belief that a return to full health would significantly help the production spike; and b) a cheap deal that can be reached, don’t be surprised if Simpson is brought back for a second go-around. Keep in mind, the needed overhaul of the Vikings’ receiving corps will take more than one offseason to complete. And if you’re looking at the receivers who were on the active roster at season’s end, that’s a list that includes Simpson; Michael Jenkins (approaching his 31st birthday and a candidate to soon be released); Devin Aromashodu (also a free agent) and Stephen Burton (seven catches, 73 yards in his first two seasons.) You can’t start totally over at that receiver position and Simpson is probably worth another roll of the dice.
Understand this: Schwartz has made it very clear he has no intention of going into 2013 as a reserve. So unless the Vikings can find a starting spot for him, he’s as good as gone. Schwartz logged all his time in 2012 at right guard, sharing snaps with Brandon Fusco from Weeks 6-15. But Fusco, who has a big fan in Spielman, started the season as the undisputed starter and ended it that way too.
The likely move: Schwartz missed all of 2011 following hip surgery and then was derailed in training camp last summer by sports hernia surgery. He was decent in the time he played but still lacked the tempo the Vikings hoped to see him play with. As a result, he never did enough with his limited opportunity to stand out and overtake Fusco. There certainly should be opportunities elsewhere for Schwartz to start and he will be more than happy to chase whichever one suits him best. So his one-year stop through Minnesota is likely over.
Selfless veteran. Good teammate. Hard worker. These are all things the Vikings love. Problem is Aromashodu has never quite emerged as the consistent playmaker he seemingly has the potential to be. In two seasons and 31 games as a Viking, he has totaled 37 catches, 650 yards and one touchdown. He’s had only five games in Minnesota with more than two catches.
The likely move: Time to cut ties. Again, the Vikings coaching staff can talk all they want about Aromashodu’s crisp route running and intelligence and easygoing nature. But he just hasn’t delivered enough on game days. It’s time to search for new answers at receiver.
A smart and versatile lineman with eight NFL seasons under his belt, Berger proved to be a serviceable fill-in at both center and guard when called upon in 2011. In 2012, he wasn’t needed.
The likely move: Berger is one of those “Either way” guys. As in, if he’s back, OK. If he’s not, no big deal. The Vikings lucked out with the health of their o-line starters this past season. Berger certainly provides a bit of depth if he’s kept around. But it also wouldn’t be that difficult to find an equal or better replacement either.
On Friday morning at Winter Park, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is scheduled to meet with local reporters to discuss the team’s preparations for next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis. But inevitably, the discussion will turn toward the Percy Harvin trade rumors that surfaced in a big way this past week.
As speculation spreads that the Vikings will spend some time in Indy casting Harvin-baited hooks into the NFL waters with supreme interest in what they might reel back in, Spielman will be asked to comment on all that’s being hypothesized.
Well, we’ll save you the suspense. When the questions are asked – and we’re setting the over-under on Harvin inquiries at 4.5 – Spielman will suddenly seem like his top receiver catching a bubble screen. Darting this way, dodging that way, impossible to corral. He’ll almost certainly reiterate that Harvin is a good football player – blue chip in fact – while vaguely issuing a reminder that the Vikings don’t like to get rid of really good football players.
But will that mean Harvin is certain to be back in purple in 2013? Absolutely not.
Fact of the matter is, from a business standpoint, it does Spielman no good to publicly say anything of substance about Harvin’s future with the team. Not if he has at least some interest in gaging the trade market. Which means that the Harvin story will be wrapped in rumor and innuendo for at least the next few weeks and possibly longer. Which, in turn, means the debates will intensify between those who think Harvin is an irreplaceable playmaker who needs to be kept long-term versus those who think the Vikings should pull the trigger on a trade while the value of doing so may be at its highest.
To help you better understand all the moving parts of this saga, we’re providing legitimate arguments from both sides. Keep Percy? Trade Percy? Feel free to continue this discussion, as you see fit, at your office or local watering hole.
Keep Percy: Here’s your obligatory reminder that through eight games last season, Harvin was the NFL leader in catches with 60. At the season’s midpoint he was on pace for 120 catches and 1,334 receiving yards. For a while, his presence alone made Christian Ponder seem like a guaranteed long-term answer at quarterback. Remember after Week 7 when Ponder ranked near the top of the NFL in completion percentage? Simply because he could flick the ball to Harvin within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage then let number 12 do the rest? Yep, Harvin’s an absolute beast. He’s as slick and sleek as a waxed Porsche while also somehow providing the power of a Humvee.
Trade Percy: Nobody is disputing Harvin’s playmaking ability. The adjectives Sharpied onto his scouting report include explosive, versatile, swift and strong. But those are quickly followed by these: mercurial, moody, temperamental. When Percy’s happy, he’s one of the Vikings’ most lovable stars. When he’s not happy, break open the Advil cabinet. Don’t forget how bizarre it was last summer when Harvin expressed significant unhappiness during the team’s mini-camp, requested a trade but then failed to elaborate publicly on what the heck was bothering him. What’s that all about?
Keep Percy: Forget last summer. That episode settled down within 72 hours. What about last fall and that remarkable 5-2 start the Vikings got off to? Not possible without Harvin’s contributions. We talk a lot about his skills as a receiver. But remember in Week 4 when he also returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a score in Detroit, a TD that wound up being the difference in a 20-13 win? And what about the rushing TD he had a week later against Tennessee, which was followed a few quarters later by a mind-bending display of elusiveness on his way to a second score? Watch this again. Still need reasons to keep Percy?
Trade Percy: That 5-2 start you referenced? Well, guess what. The Vikings finished the season 5-2 as well. And that seven-game closing stretch came without Harvin. He was out with a sprained ankle that ended his season. And after the Vikings put Harvin on injured reserve and he vanished from the facility, the Vikings won their final four regular season games. Not saying, just saying. Sure didn’t seem like Harvin’s presence was a prerequisite for success.
Keep Percy: Look, playmakers like this don’t grow on trees. The Vikings were fortunate that some of Harvin’s character issues made him slide down the draft board in 2009. It was a calculates risk when they picked him. And to take that for granted now would be reckless. Especially for a team that needs so much help at receiver. It’s not like they’re overflowing with depth at that position. Plus, now seems to be the right time to issue a reminder that Harvin doesn’t turn 25 until May 28. That youth translates into big-time upside.
Trade Percy: Is now also the right time to bring up Jarius Wright? The rookie sure seemed to show rapid signs of growth down the stretch. And in the Vikings’ biggest game of the season, that playoff-clinching win over Green Bay in Week 17, Wright had three grabs, 90 yards and a TD. He may not be quite as explosive or dynamic as Harvin. But he can serve a similar role and doesn’t seem to carry half the baggage. Wright was inactive for the first nine games last season yet never seemed to fuss or mope. That’s an underrated asset.
Keep Percy: Trading one of your established stars is dangerous beyond all belief. What do the Vikings think they can get in return for Harvin? That, after all, will be a big piece to this trade puzzle. Logic may infer that a player of Harvin’s caliber should allow the Vikings to demand at least one first-round pick and some change in a deal. But the way NFL business logistics are, it won’t make much sense for any team to surrender a first-round pick for a guy who’s only signed through next season and then will need to be re-signed at a very big cost. So if the Vikings are only looking at getting a second- or third-rounder and a throw-in pick or two in the later rounds, is that really enough to give up a guy who’s probably your second best player behind Adrian Peterson?
Trade Percy: Led us right into our next point. That eye-popping salary Harvin will demand will be a HUGE piece to this puzzle. And inside NFL circles, there’s chatter that Harvin is not just expecting a long-term extension, he’s expecting to be PAAAIIID. You can thank Twin Cities-native Larry Fitzgerald for exploding market on receivers. The contract extension Fitzgerald signed with Arizona, an eight-year deal worth up to $120 million, changed the game. Let us give you some numbers of receiver contracts subsequently signed over the past two offseasons. Vincent Jackson: five years, $55 million. Santonio Holmes: five years, $50 million. Pierre Garcon: five years, $42.5 million. Sidney Rice: five years, $41 million. Marques Colston: five years, $40 million. Those are exorbitant sums. And before you make a long-term investment like that, you best be sure you’re going to be able to manage Harvin’s mood swings and volatility while also hoping his style of play doesn’t turn him into a major durability risk.
Keep Percy: Harvin is better than Santonio Holmes, better than Garcon, better than Rice. He would be worth every bit of a contract that pays him $8-, $9-, maybe $10 million per year. Plus, a shrewd front office will structure the deal so that it’s heavy on incentives to minimize their risks in the event that Harvin either gets injured or has a meltdown.
Trade Percy: If you’re talking $8- or $9 million per year, by all means, start working out a deal. But we’ll say it again. Harvin believes he’s worth more than that. Much more than that. And he might be commanding a deal in the ballpark of Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson, whose extension with Detroit was seven years and $132 million. That, my friend, is just ludicrous cash to be throwing around. Percy Harvin is a great football player. But he’s not on the level of Fitzy or Megatron. You know most of those names we mentioned a minute ago? Jackson, Holmes, Rice, Colston. Know what they have on their resume that Harvin doesn’t? A 1,000-yard receiving season. So how can a guy who has never surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in a season command in excess of $12 million per year? That’s where this could get extra dicey for Spielman. There’s also a lingering fear that if Harvin already has prima donna tendencies, giving him such a huge payday might create an egocentric monster that can’t be tamed.
Keep Percy: Tired of hearing all these concerns about Harvin’s moods. Are they really that big of a deal? Within the locker room, he isn’t considered a cancer. He hasn’t really been a divisive force amongst teammates. Most of those guys admire how hard he works, how hard he plays and how dynamic he is. If anything, he’s simply a young kid who can be irritable and cause headaches for the coaching staff and front office. This is the NFL. And if any franchise has the kind of even-keeled and patient head coach to deal with such volatility, it’s the Vikings with Leslie Frazier. Frazier has both the tolerance and the desire to continue molding Harvin. And Harvin has said in the past that he loves playing for Frazier, too. So what if that comes with an occasional immature outburst now and again?
Trade Percy: Again, there is absolutely nothing to say Frazier is fed up with Harvin beyond a point of no return right now. He continues to compliment Harvin and has gone on record to say he wants him as part of this football team. But the biggest question here may not be whether the Vikings want Harvin around but whether Harvin wants to be around the Vikings. And if he has checked out and decided that he wants a fresh start in a new place, sometimes there’s no turning back. And for a team looking to continue its impressive resurgence by building around selfless, low-maintenance, no-drama guys, perhaps now’s the perfect time to cut the cord. Get what you can now before the drama builds and becomes a major distraction.
Keep Percy: We’ll leave you with this.
Trade Percy: And we’ll leave you with this.
Last year, around this time, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier kept hearing about Percy Harvin.
First, while coaching the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and later at the 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Frazier was repeatedly approached by opposing coaches, who in casual conversation just kept mentioning how much of a headache it was to defend Harvin.
The energetic slot receiver was just so slippery, so dynamic, so explosive.
The more Frazier heard from peers and foes about the stress Harvin could cause an opposing defense, the more he realized Harvin had to become an even bigger cog in the Vikings’ attack. And so plans were tweaked, Harvin’s role was enhanced and for eight games in 2012, the explosive playmaker did a little bit of everything.
He took bubble screens and short quick-hit passes and turned them into big gains. He lined up in the backfield and displayed his demolition derby style as a running back. He lobbied for more action on special teams and continued to be one of the league’s most electrifying return men, evidenced best by his 105-yard score in Week 4 in Detroit.
At the season’s midpoint, Harvin was the Vikings star being propped up as a league MVP candidate, not Adrian Peterson. Harvin was the one who seemed more responsible for the team’s 5-3 start, amassing a league-best 60 catches and totaling 739 yards from scrimmage with five total touchdowns mixed in. (Peterson, for the record, had 914 yards from scrimmage and four TDs after eight games.)
But now? Well, now all that Percy Harvin feel-good has been snowed under by a blizzard of Percy Harvin confusion. Most significantly: the question on whether Harvin will remain a Viking in 2013 and beyond cannot be answered definitively, fueling a new wave of speculation that he may soon be traded.\
To be clear, this uncertainty and these rumors have existed for a while now, even if they are just now mushrooming and making bigger headlines nationally. But much of the outside conjecture is justified as the Vikings coaching staff and front office continues keep the details of Harvin’s saga very, very private.
Percy Harvin? On the trading block? Could it be?
Yes. Yes, it could be.
When the Vikings head back to the Combine next week, you can bet they’ll cast a few Harvin-baited hooks into the waters and see if there are any nibbles. And with the 24-year-old playmaker heading into the final year of his rookie deal, now may be a practical time to pull the trigger.
After all, keeping Harvin happy in Minnesota in 2013 would likely require a lucrative long-term contract extension. And with the durability and personality question marks that are in permanent ink in Harvin’s evaluation file, the Vikings have to measure the risk-reward of investing in Harvin long-term versus dealing him for a few choice draft picks.
Are Harvin’s game-changing skills so valuable that they mitigate the ever-present worry that his moodiness may one day grow too toxic for a team looking to fuel its rise with low-maintenance, drama-free players? That’s what the Vikings must decide. And that decision is only complicated by the market value Harvin now has at a position where salaries are quickly escalating.
Publicly, neither Frazier nor General Manager Rick Spielman would benefit from openly declaring Harvin up for auction. But you can bet the Vikings will be listening to interested suitors at the combine, perhaps ready to move away from the dangerous temper wick attached to Harvin’s toughness, speed and elusiveness.
The abrupt end to Harvin’s 2012 season still registers as strange. Yes, there was the severe left ankle sprain Harvin suffered in the second half of a Week 9 loss in Seattle. And that was followed by a four-and-a-half-week stretch in which, despite a calculated combination of rest and rehabilitation, Harvin’s ankle just never improved enough for him to get back on the field. So the Vikings insist the decision to end Harvin’s season with a move to Injured Reserve on the Wednesday of Week 14 was purely protective, a decision to keep the always aggressive receiver from pursuing a return to action in a way that could endanger his long-term health.
But along with that plausible explanation comes the inevitable follow-up questions, the ones the Vikings never really did answer head-on: If the injury was the only thing being evaluated, then was it really a practical move to end Harvin’s season on Dec. 5, in the middle of a playoff push, with four regular games left? It was, after all just an ankle sprain. And wasn’t it peculiar that Harvin’s injury never required surgery and that the Vikings’ played their playoff game at Lambeau Field 62 days after the receiver sprained that ankle?
Seems only fair to wonder if Harvin might have been able to play in that contest.
And so the mystery looms, heightened even further when you think back to the awkwardness Frazier displayed on the podium at Winter Park hours before the Harvin-to-I.R. move was rubber-stamped.
Asked directly if there were issues beyond the ankle injury that were contributing to Harvin’s absence, Frazier paused and squirmed for a moment.
“You know, it’s …” Frazier said. “I know that he wants to win like we do. And I’m sure he’s going to do everything he can to do what he has to do to help our football team.
“We’ll see where it goes.”
READ BETWEEN THE LINES
Meanwhile, if you want direct and honest answers from the Vikings head coach and GM on their Harvin feelings? Sorry. That’s not going to happen. But here is what we can tell you about what Frazier and Spielman have said about Harvin since the Vikings’ season ended with a playoff loss in Green Bay last month.
First, there was Frazier’s insistence that Harvin’s odd disappearance from the team in December was no big deal and a firm declaration that the mercurial receiver “will coexist peacefully” within the organization going forward.
“He exists peacefully now,” Frazier said.
Sometime last month, Harvin finally returned to Winter Park for a mandatory exit physical. And here is how Frazier summarized his most recent conversation with Harvin.
“I told him how much I love him and want him to be a part of our team,” Frazier told KFAN’s Dan Barreiro in a Feb. 3 interview. “And all those things that he hears in questions that are asked to me about his future in Minnesota, I mean I want him to play for our team. I don’t want him to play for anyone else. And I tried to put that to rest with him. So he’s clear on how I feel. And we have great respect for one another and hope that things will be great next season.”
As for Spielman? In his season-ending gathering with local reporters, he denied that the team had concerns about Harvin’s attitude, saying flat out: “We have no issues with Percy Harvin.”
Which, of course, is exactly what a GM would say if a) he really had no issues with Harvin; or b) if he was being careful to minimize and hide any such problems so as not to scare off potential trade partners or reduce Harvin’s trade value.
You can see why the opening for conspiracy theories and speculation continues to open wide. And so, if you choose, you can be the one that reads between the lines on everything Spielman says. Like when he told KFAN’s Paul Allen in a radio interview Friday that he would love a scenario in which the Vikings went into April’s draft armed with 10 or 11 picks.
Wait … But … The Vikings only have eight selections at present. So Spielman had to have up something big in mind with that insinuation, right?
And how about the sudden silliness that sprung up Sunday when the Vikings’ 2013 season ticket poster was noted for having five standouts featured: Peterson and Jared Allen and Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield and Christian Ponder.
No Harvin? That, the conspiracy theorists will argue, also has to mean something.
So yep, this is where a complicated situation can too often become overwhelmed with gossip and innuendo.
With well-rehearsed talking points, the Vikings continue to publicly discuss Harvin by expressing everything you already knew. That Harvin is a good football player. A blue-chip player in fact. And that he’s under contract for one more season. And then when paired with Peterson, he gives the Vikings two big-play threats that makes the Vikings offense very, very dangerous.
It’s also worth noting that commitment is a two-way street. So even if the Vikings were fully intent on finding a way to make things work with Harvin long-term, the receiver himself would have to reciprocate such interest.
And given that Harvin hasn’t done an interview in nearly three months, it’s hard to know what exactly he’s thinking about all this.
Instead, the soap opera continues, Harvin’s future as a Vikings as iffy as ever,
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|Anthony Herrera (161)||Antoine Winfield (407)|
|Ben Leber (97)||Bernard Berrian (213)|
|Bobby Wade (16)||Brad Childress (634)|
|Brett Favre (802)||Brian Robison (148)|
|Bryant McKinnie (106)||Cedric Griffin (194)|
|Chad Greenway (174)||Chester Taylor (79)|
|Chris Kluwe (113)||Darrell Bevell (109)|
|E.J. Henderson (182)||Heath Farwell (49)|
|Jared Allen (360)||John Sullivan (188)|
|Kevin Williams (188)||Leslie Frazier (799)|
|Madieu Williams (78)||Pat Williams (150)|
|Percy Harvin (665)||Phil Loadholt (145)|
|Ray Edwards (172)||Ryan Longwell (145)|
|Sage Rosenfels (102)||Sidney Rice (271)|
|Steve Hutchinson (188)||Tarvaris Jackson (169)|
|Tyrell Johnson (151)||Visanthe Shiancoe (216)|
|Brad Childress (638)||Darrell Bevell (110)|
|Leslie Frazier (804)||Lynx (1)|