Published June 20, 2012
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Percy Harvin was nowhere to be found at the Minnesota Vikings' mandatory minicamp practice Wednesday afternoon, and no one seems to know when the star receiver will be back in purple.
Unhappy with several issues with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009, Harvin requested a trade, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
After participating in a light walk-through practice on Wednesday morning with his teammates, Harvin wasn't present for the full afternoon practice. Head coach Leslie Frazier declined to go into detail on Harvin's absence and said he wasn't sure if one of the team's most important players would be around for the final day Thursday.
"We're going to talk more in detail," Frazier said. "We have a lot of things to talk about."
Vikings GM Rick Spielman said the organization considers Harvin a cornerstone player and will work to resolve any issues that have upset him.
"We have no interest at all in trading Percy Harvin," Spielman 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 internally, and we'll continue to handle those internally."
The situation seemingly came out of nowhere this week, surprising many Vikings players and coaches when Harvin voiced his frustrations with the team Tuesday at the opening of minicamp.
"I just put it this way: There's a lot of different things that have to be sorted out," Harvin said Tuesday. "Just haven't been really happy lately. We've got a couple of things to work on. I'm here in the classroom. We'll go from there."
Harvin declined to go into detail about his grievances. He is due to make $915,000 in the fourth year of a five-year rookie deal. That total is much lower than veterans Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson, with neither coming close to his production on the field.
But indications are that Harvin's issues go far deeper than just money. His role in the offense, which diminished greatly last season when the Vikings reached the red zone, and the organization's decision to go into a rebuilding phase coming off of consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North combined with his modest salary all figure to factor into his mindset.
Requesting a trade now would be a curious move if his main motivation is a new contract. Most players in similar situations first voice their concerns, then threaten to holdout of training camp before going as far as to request a trade.
Harvin did not speak to reporters on Wednesday, but did post a message on his Twitter account.
"Fans I said I have issues to be worked out money not at all being the problem," Harvin wrote...I've (done) everything asked and more..."
Spielman would not say if money was an issue, but also reiterated the organization's approach to signing players to extensions.
"Our philosophy has always been as players enter the last year of their contract we have a history of extending players going into the last year of their contract," Spielman said. "And that's been our history."
Harvin has emerged as perhaps the most versatile and dynamic player on the team. He earned respect in the locker room for his willingness to play through injuries and still produce late in last year's miserable 3-13 season. In May, Harvin showed up at voluntary workouts despite still recovering from shoulder surgery and spoke of asserting himself as a leader and encouraging other players to participate in the team's offseason program.
He caught 87 passes for 967 yards and six touchdowns last season, rushed for another 345 yards and two scores and also returned a kick for a touchdown during a sensational year.
Harvin dealt with migraine headaches and numerous other minor injuries as the result of his punishing style of play, missing one game his rookie season and two in 2010, which brought concerns about his durability over the long term.
He played in all 16 games last season, establishing himself as one of the game's top slot receivers and most dangerous kick returners.
"Percy is a phenomenal player on the field," Spielman said. "And you look at his statistics he had last year and how important he is to this franchise. He's a vital part of us moving forward with this team."
But somewhere between his appearance at team headquarters in May and his return to Minnesota this week, something went wrong for Harvin.
After making the NFC title game as a rookie, the Vikings have taken significant steps backward the last two seasons. They are centering their rebuild on Harvin, Peterson, who is recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, and second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.
Harvin is far and away Ponder's best option in the receiver corps that includes non-descript veterans Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu, rookie fourth-round picks Jarius Wright and Greg Childs and Simpson, who will be suspended for the first three games this season after being arrested on drug charges while with the Cincinnati Bengals.
After signing tight end John Carlson from Seattle, there has been a lot of talk about the Vikings going to more two tight-end sets to take advantage of him and second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph. That could also be a concern for Harvin, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said he was unaware of any problems Harvin had with the playbook. Musgrave said he planned to get the ball to Harvin even more this season.
"We're looking forward to getting him on the field and as an offense we're looking forward to having a better year," Musgrave said. "That's the bottom line."
Peterson said he hadn't spoken to his friend about it but planned to have a conversation to try to help smooth things over.
"I wouldn't say it's distracting. It's more bothering. It's like, we definitely don't want to lose this guy. ... I'm sure the organization will do what it has to do to keep this guy around," Peterson said. "If it was me, I would make sure that we kept him around. But we'll see."
Frazier said the two sides have to get on the same page by the time the team reports to Mankato for camp on July 26.
"Hopefully, we'll be headed in the right direction when we get to training camp and everyone can focus on getting ready for the Jacksonville game," Frazier said. "That's the way it has to be. We can't afford any outside distractions."
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