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Updated: June 25th, 2012 3:43pm
Zulgad's Roundup: GM, coach team up to handle Percy Harvin situation

Zulgad's Roundup: GM, coach team up to handle Percy Harvin situation

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

While it remains unclear exactly what caused Percy Harvin to threaten not to show up when the Minnesota Vikings report to training camp next month, team officials appear confident that three days of damage control done last week mean the talented and moody wide receiver will be in Mankato on time.

"I fully expect to see (Harvin) and his teammates there," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said during a recent appearance on "Judd & Phunn" on 1500 ESPN. "I don't foresee anybody not showing up for training camp. I don't see anything that would keep that from happening."

The biggest question remains what caused Harvin to be so upset with the Vikings?

He arrived for the team's mandatory minicamp last Tuesday and informed reporters he was upset about a subject or subjects he would not discuss. On Wednesday, he demanded a trade and skipped a practice, but by Thursday he was back and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was expressing optimism about the situation.

Harvin has two years left on his rookie deal and his base salary is only $915,000 for this coming season so it was a logical conclusion that this was related to money. However, all indications were it went beyond financials.

This is not to say that if the Vikings offered Harvin a long-term, lucrative deal he would turn it down. Money can solve a lot of issues.

Frazier was asked if Harvin had told him exactly what was wrong.

"We talked about a lot of things and the main thing for he and I was to make sure that we want the same thing," Frazier said. "That is to bring a championship to Minnesota. That has to be at the core of everything that we do and if it is we can work through anything else that's going on.

"But that has to be the key to why we're here. Because of that he's going to be in Mankato, and we're hoping we can move in the right direction to get closer to hoisting a trophy here in Minnesota at some point."

While Frazer was dealing with Harvin, general manager Rick Spielman was working with Harvin's agent, Joel Segal, an indication that the subject of money likely was broached at some point.

"(Segal and I) talked over the last couple days, and hopefully, we'll get to move on from where we're at," Spielman said during an appearance on "Sunday SportsTalk" on 1500 ESPN. "But you're never surprised in this business. There's always something that may pop up potentially here or there. You just keep a cool head, you react to what's going on and you try to make the best solution and then just move forward. That's part of what this business is about."

Despite being one of the Vikings' most talented players, Harvin played only 600 snaps (57.9 percent) on offense last season and often wasn't used on kickoff returns. He still managed to produce 1,832 total yards on 155 touches, including a team-leading 87 receptions for 967 yards and six touchdowns.

The Vikings' concern with Harvin is the reckless manner with which he plays the game. It's what makes him so effective, but also leaves him susceptible to injury. Harvin, who is listed at 5-11, 184 pounds, dealt with severe migraine headaches in his first two seasons, adding to the list of issues that concern the Vikings.

Last season was the first time he played in all 16 regular-season games. Add this up and the logical question becomes: Do the Vikings want to give Harvin a long-term contract?

Do Harvin's style of play and off-the-field dramas overshadow his great talents?

But it's that talent that must make it tempting for the coaching staff to give him more playing time in 2012.

"His snaps may go up, but his touches, I don't know about that," Frazier said. "We do want to keep him on the field more (because) people defend us different when he's not on the field. So we'd like to keep him on the field more. But his style, he is a reckless guy, he doesn't hold anything back and it's always 100 miles an hour. So you have to be careful of not overusing him and you have to be mindful of that."

Frazier went so far as to call Harvin, "the straw that stirs the drink for us," on offense.

"Especially with Adrian (Peterson) coming off major surgery," Frazier said. "Early on, just like we had to when Adrian went down last season, we're going to have to ride (Harvin) and count on Toby (Gerhart), depending on where Adrian is, in the run game.

"But Percy will have to be the guy that creates some problems for defenses for us. So many defensive coaches that came up to me when we were all at the Senior Bowl, along with the (NFL Scouting) combine, (told) me how difficult it is to defend Percy. We use him in so many different ways. He was a major, major factor in our offense. A lot of things will go through him."

Spielman, meanwhile, sounded as if handling the Harvin situation was all part of the job.

"There are different personalities that you have to deal with on a daily basis," he said. "But when you look at it and you look at Percy and what he brings to us on the field and how much passion he has to play football and gives us a great opportunity to win on Sundays when he's on the field - you have to understand, just like we try to know and understand when we draft a player or sign a player as a free agent or bring a player into our organization, how we're going to have to handle this player.

"Is he going to be handled differently and what do we have to do differently to handle that player? So, those are a lot of the pre-discussions that go into it before we bring players in, and you just have to ... have a game plan if a guy has an issue or something and then try to work off of that."

Peterson's progress

Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson was in attendance at the Vikings minicamp, but did not do any football-related practice work as he continues to rehab from surgery he had last winter to repair the torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments he suffered in his left knee on Dec. 24 in Washington.

It's no secret that Peterson is eager to get back as soon as possible, but the Vikings doctors and athletic trainers are intent on making sure he doesn't come back too soon and suffer a setback.

The Vikings signed Peterson to a seven-year, $96 million deal last September that includes $36 million in guarantees.

In other words, the Vikings main worry is the 27-year-old Peterson returns to his previous form and not that he attempts to come back too quick.

Frazier sounded confident, but cautious, as he discussed Peterson's situation.

"He looks good," Frazier said. "He's moving around without any hitch, he's doing a lot of good things. What you don't know is how he's going to be when you put pads on and someone comes and they dive at his ankle or they look as if they're going to grab his knee. That you can't predict.

"But based on where he is today, everything is moving in the right direction. I don't know if we'll put him on the practice field anytime soon when we get to Mankato. But everything indicates there's a very good chance he may be ready for that Jacksonville game (to open the regular season on Sept. 9). We're still far enough out that you really can't say that right now."

Reading between the lines, it seems like the Vikings' plan right now might be to open camp with Peterson on the physically unable to perform list. That move would make him ineligible to practice and not open the door for Peterson to talk his way onto the field.

Frazier acknowledged that holding back Peterson isn't easy.

"We were in my office (Thursday) and we were just sitting down talking about it," Frazier said. "He thinks he's ready to go now. He keeps telling (us) we need to let him do this, let him do that. I said, 'Man, you've still got a little time here Adrian. We don't play until early September.'

"But that probably will be the biggest challenge. Just like it was when he began his rehab. He gets out of the hospital, he wants to try to jog. He wants to try to do things that there's no way you could do. But he's unique."

Asked who has the responsibility of telling Peterson he can't do something, Frazier explained it's a multi-person job that includes himself, Spielman, as well as team doctors and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman.

"We all try to keep him to follow the regimen that the doctors had planned for him, that our trainer has planned for him" Frazier said. "It's a challenge because he does things a little bit different. When you compare him to other guys that have had ACL injuries, he's just so far ahead of where they would be at the same time.

"It almost makes you want to say, 'OK, let's try a little bit more.' But you know you can't go down that road, but you have to keep reminding him. Credit to him, he's bought into that for the most part. He has adhered for the most part to what the doctors asked him to do, although there are times when he'll want to do things on his own and you have to try to fight that."

A weighty subject

Christian Ponder has gone from about 212 pounds last March to 233 pounds this summer, but Frazier said he approves of the quarterback's weight gain.

"We were (pleased)," Frazier said. "What he did with his muscle to fat ratio, he put on muscle he didn't put on fat. You're looking at a guy that actually has a lean body mass that's less than it was when he was 215, 220. He's put on the right kind of weight and that's what you want. You want lean muscle and that's what he's done."

Frazier made it clear on the final day of minicamp that Ponder would arrive in Mankato as the Vikings' starting quarterback and that there would be no open competition for the job with either Joe Webb or Sage Rosenfels.

Spielman, of course, also is on board with this.

"I think it's very strong that when you have a young quarterback and you see how he's progressed from day one of OTAs to where he's at right now and how that chemistry on that offense is built," Spielman said, "I think when you give that quarterback that confidence - the confidence that he's showing right now and the confidence that he's built - that, 'You are our guy and we expect you to take over this team and lead this team,' that's the best way we felt to bring the young quarterback along."

End game

The Vikings' offseason program came to an end last week with minicamp wrapping up. That means the team won't get back together until it reports to camp on July 26. Frazier, who did not have an offseason to work with his players last year because of the NFL lockout, was very pleased with how things went.

"There were so many good things that happened over this nine-week period that we had," he said. "With phase one of our offseason program, phase two where we began to teach and phase three where we went through OTAS and then the minicamp. Every phase we got a little bit better in some areas. So, you just feel good about where things are going." 

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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