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Updated: June 20th, 2012 8:23pm
Zulgad: Vikings take positive step in handling Percy Harvin situation

Zulgad: Vikings take positive step in handling Percy Harvin situation

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have little control over the fact disgruntled wide receiver Percy Harvin elected to create a firestorm this week by demanding a trade.

But the Vikings do have control over how they respond to the Harvin situation, and the organization deserves credit for finally getting it right.

After Tuesday's initial walkthrough at the mandatory minicamp, Harvin expressed the fact he wasn't happy with the team because of issues he declined to get into.

On Wednesday morning, news broke that Harvin had demanded a trade.

In previous years, the Vikings' approach might have been to hope the problem went away or have the head coach eventually address it. But it never would have been clear who was in control of the situation.

Example one of this: The day in 2010 when coach Brad Childress sent Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell to Hattiesburg, Miss., to try to convince Brett Favre to return for another season.

The three players were not at practice, and afterward, because it wasn't Childress' day to talk to the media, the team's coordinators were left to attempt to explain why Allen, Hutchinson and Longwell were nowhere to be found.

Brian Murphy, who was the special teams' coordinator at the time, finally said Longwell had spent the morning working on "gimmick kicks" indoors.

The media wasn't buying this, the coordinators were furious about being put in that situation and Childress ended up having to apologize for being so arrogant as to think he could pull a fast one of that magnitude.

Example two: The 2005 "Love Boat" cruise on Lake Minnetonka, in which a group of players ended up embarrassing the organization with their actions on a chartered boat.

Somehow, coach Mike Tice ended up becoming the spokesperson for that fiasco despite the fact the situation screamed for an executive to take the lead and not the guy who was trying to win football games.

These types of incidents created a less-than-positive perception about how the Vikings did their business.

It appears these types of missteps might be coming to an end.

The first indication of this came Wednesday. A few hours after it was reported Harvin wanted out of Minnesota, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman addressed the media in the team's practice facility at Winter Park to discuss the situation.

Let's be clear about this: Spielman said almost nothing.

He said the Vikings had no interest in trading Harvin, declined to discuss the issues that have gotten the team and one of its star players to this point and expressed confidence Harvin would be in Mankato when training camp opens.

But here's the key: It doesn't matter that Spielman divulged little to no real information. What he did do was he showed the Vikings finally have a clear-cut person in charge of their football operations.

This is why many applauded the decision to name a general manager after the debacle that was the Vikings' 3-13 season in 2011. This team has needed one football voice for a long time and yet that person has never been there.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who originally wasn't scheduled to address the media on Wednesday, went to the podium but mostly deferred to Spielman's earlier remarks.

Frazier won't be the spokesperson for this issue and he shouldn't be. This is a good idea on many levels.

Harvin clearly got out ahead of the Vikings in expressing how he was feeling, but now at least the team is on even ground with him when it comes to addressing this issue.

No one outside of Winter Park knows exactly what is bothering Harvin, but at least now we know where both player and franchise stand on things when it comes to their feelings.

Also, whatever is bothering Harvin, the Vikings now have the ability to play good cop, bad cop with him.

Spielman can paint himself as the villain, the guy that tells Harvin he wants him around but that this is a business and he has to be prepared to play by the Vikings' rules.

Frazier, meanwhile, can close his office door and explain to Harvin that he understands he's not happy and wants to make everything better. Heck, Frazier can agree with Harvin that Spielman is the bad guy if he wants to go that far.

That's how these situations are supposed to work.

The general manager takes charge of instances like this, and the coach works behind the scenes to make sure the franchise is served in the best way possible.

The Vikings certainly aren't happy they are going to have to go down this path with Harvin, but with their new structure in place the good thing is the organization has a far better plan to handle these matters than it did in previous years.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. 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
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