Percy Harvin never really told us exactly what was wrong when he sat out for part of the Vikings’ mini camp last month. At first he told reporters there were issues, said those issues needed to be worked out, and then he didn’t confirm or deny an intention to sit out during training camp.
All of that happened during just one day, and then the following day when he still wasn’t on the field, reports surfaced that he’d requested a trade. He wouldn’t say specifically what the problem was, only that it wasn’t money. We didn’t believe him, because believing anything a disgruntled athlete says is an act for only the truly gullible. So we assumed that even if money wasn’t the sole driver of his disgust, his meager $915,000 paycheck in 2012 was certainly playing some role, along with his significant and inexplicable lack of touches last season.
When Harvin finally did speak, it was just to issue a hollow denial, say that he had no idea where all those “crazy reports” came from. Well, Percy, they sort of came from you.
But ignore all of that now, everyone, because everything’s just rosy. Harvin will be reporting to training camp on time, so that means there are no lingering problems whatsoever. None.
That’s what Adam Schefter’s sources are saying, with the oracle himself tweeting that Harvin will report to training camp on Day 1, crossing some kind of figurative bridge while gazing longingly at the water below.
What’s happening here is pretty simple. Although there was always a chance that Harvin would cling to every bit of leverage he has and refuse to play football until he was traded, the odds of that strategy being mobilized were always slim. Sure, he could have cited his disgust with either of the items listed above (his paycheck, or the football thrown in his direction so he has a chance to increase that paycheck in the future), but the effort would have been futile. Eventually he would have had to report to the Vikings by Week 10 to record a year of service time so that he’s that much closer to free agency.
Harvin is still under contract for two more years, and in 2013 his salary will increase only marginally to $1.55 million. That’s petty cash for a wideout who easily led his team in receiving yards last year, and is key to the development of Christian Ponder. Even with Donovan McNabb unable to impersonate a professional quarterback and Ponder going through the typical rookie growing pains, Harvin still finished with 967 yards last year, easily leading the Vikings and significantly ahead of Michael Jenkins’ 466.
Minnesota needs Harvin, and he knows it. He also knows that he’s stuck, because right now if he truly did flirt with a trade request, the market is thin for a player who’s constantly battling injuries, and has a migraine problem. He needs to be healthy and productive for another season.
But to do that, he’ll have to get the damn ball, and part of his anger with head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff likely centered around usage. Inexplicably, Harvin was only on the field for just over half of the Vikings’ offensive plays last year (58.8 percent). Despite that lack of usage, Pro Football Focus noted that he was one of the league’s most reliable receivers, and had the best catch rate in the slot.
So it doesn’t take much of a logical leap to deduce that more balls thrown to Harvin will lead to a much happier Harvin, and a more confident Ponder. That needs to happen, and it needs to happen in Week 1 of the 2012 season. Anything short of that game plan could lead to the Vikings ruining their chances of having a dynamic and highly athletic wide receiver-quarterback combination in place for years.