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Updated: December 5th, 2012 9:28pm
Zulgad: Vikings get reminder that keeping Percy Harvin would be a risk

Zulgad: Vikings get reminder that keeping Percy Harvin would be a risk

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by Judd Zulgad

Percy Harvin's early-season brilliance made many forget the firestorm he caused in June, when he voiced his displeasure with the Minnesota Vikings during minicamp and briefly demanded a trade.

The ultra-talented receiver refused to reveal why he was unhappy and shortly thereafter took to Twitter to express his surprise at the reaction to how he had acted.

We eventually dubbed this "Percy World," and let's be clear: we aren't residents of this planet, but we do get to watch it.

Sometimes, what goes on in "Percy World" can be a joy to observe.

This was the case as Harvin opened the season by catching six passes for 84 yards and running five times for 20 yards in a victory over Jacksonville.

He followed that by catching 12 passes for 104 yards the next week at Indianapolis.

Harvin had another double-digit reception performance a month later, catching 11 passes for 133 yards at Washington.

But those performances might not have been the biggest spark Harvin provided the Vikings during the season.

That came in the last game of September, a 20-13 victory at Detroit, when he returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.

Harvin's name was, rightfully so, mixed into the early MVP discussions, and it only seemed logical to speculate on when the Vikings might consider opening negotiations with Harvin's representatives on a new contract.

His rookie deal will pay him a base salary of $915,000 this season and $1.55 million in 2013, plus modest workout bonuses of $27,500 each year.

On Wednesday night, however, there was another reminder of why the Vikings might be willing to sever ties with Harvin if he doesn't accept a contract on their terms.

Harvin was placed on season-ending injured reserve because of a sprained left ankle he suffered on Nov. 4 in Seattle. That was the same game in which Harvin, 24, melted down on coach Leslie Frazier on the sideline.

Harvin's issues are twofold.

The first is the fact that he is the sole member of "Percy World." In that world, it isn't a question of whether temper tantrums and meltdowns will take place, but when they will occur. This is part of the reason why Harvin fell to the 22nd pick in the 2009 draft.

Sometimes, there can be long stretches between episodes, but make no mistake, there always seems to be drama waiting around the corner.

Example A: Four days after Harvin's friend, Randy Moss, was released by the Vikings after a short-stint with the organization in 2010, then-coach Brad Childress threw Harvin out of practice. The two had to be separated before things got physical and the argument continued into the weight room. It was at that point Harvin hurled a weight in Childress' direction. It's fortunate he missed.

Example B: Harvin's downright odd rant last spring about not being happy. Eventually, Harvin discussed the fact there were things about the Vikings offense he did not like and it sounded as if those things might have been cleared up only after Frazier, a man of great patience, did some serious counseling.

That being said, Harvin's actions aren't enough to get a team to let him walk away. He's too talented. Plus, there is no coach or NFL executive who doesn't believe in his heart that he couldn't straighten out Harvin and get him to see things his way. This might be misguided -- just ask Childress -- but it's a reality.

Here's where the Vikings real concern is going to come in and it's completely justified.

Harvin, who is 5-foot-11, 184 pounds, plays the game with a reckless abandon that makes one wonder how long he will be able to remain in the NFL.

And it's not as if you can tell him to take it easy. Harvin initiates contact on a consistent basis.

Last season, when Frazier tried to ease his workload by taking him off kickoffs, Harvin became extremely annoyed. He was back on kickoffs this season. One can make the case that Harvin deserves praise for forcing his way onto the kickoff unit, but Frazier was simply trying to save Harvin from himself and the player wanted no part of that plan.

Then there is matter of Harvin's issues with migraine headaches.

He missed one game as a rookie in 2009 because of migraines and two more in 2010. He also did not return for 16 days during training camp in 2010 after he left the team to mourn the passing of his grandmother. Childress eventually hounded Harvin about returning and Harvin then claimed he again was dealing with migraines and remained a no-show.

Even if the Vikings are convinced Harvin will never have another migraine episode, this latest ankle injury is a reminder that no matter how tough he might be, he can't play through every injury and his approach to the game is going to result in more and more issues as the years pass.

This doesn't mean the Vikings shouldn't and won't attempt to sign Harvin to a second NFL contract.

It's just that giving him a boatload of money up front and expecting a long-term return is going to be a risk the Vikings might not be willing to take.

And, in this case, they might be justified.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd