EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The sun was bright, the breeze was blowing and smiles were abundant as the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their offseason program.
Percy Harvin was back on the field Thursday morning, laughing with teammates and participating fully in the last practice of minicamp. That frustration with the organization he described sternly but vaguely earlier in the week was not apparent by his demeanor. Harvin’s request to be traded, followed by his absence Wednesday afternoon from the mandatory session, was shelved for a while even if it’s unresolved.
“It’s a new day today,” head coach Leslie Frazier said, ever eager to try to avoid talking about his star wide receiver’s still-unexplained discontent. “The fact that he was engaged and working to help us win, that’s where my focus is. Just glad that he was participating in what we’re doing. You move forward.”
Harvin declined to be interviewed as he jogged to the locker room — “talk later,” he said — but tweeted an hour later to say, “I’m really clueless on the crazy reports.” Harvin went on to declare Thursday’s practice “great” and told his fans he’d see them in Mankato, where the Vikings report to training camp July 26.
He wasn’t specific about his promised arrival, but he sure made that sound like he’s not planning to hold out.
“I just assume that he’ll be here,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “It’s not my job to handle it. The front office will handle it, and they’re going to do a great job. We know that Percy is a heck of a player, and we like being around him, and he’s been out here practicing like nothing’s wrong, and that’s what we like to see. He still cares about being here.”
Ponder said he and Harvin spoke about getting together in Florida over the next couple of weeks, joking to reporters he’ll do whatever he can to keep Harvin happy, including dinner, a movie or bowling.
“Everything seemed normal. This kind of came out of nowhere, so I’m not really sure what the issues are. But I’m sure they’ll get worked out,” Ponder said.
Frazier said he spoke briefly with Harvin but again declined to explain exactly why the hard-nosed, multi-skilled, fourth-year player is unhappy. General manager Rick Spielman said Wednesday the Vikings have no interest in dealing Harvin, who has two seasons left on his rookie contract.
Harvin said on Twitter Wednesday that his situation is not about money. But the way Spielman, Frazier and Harvin’s teammates have spoken about addressing and resolving this made it sound like at least some of it is. Harvin is recovering from supposedly minor shoulder surgery, and Frazier also said the team kept him off limits from contact so he didn’t fall and aggravate the joint.
“He leaves going home feeling confident that things are moving in the right direction. We feel confident things are moving in the right direction,” Frazier said. “So that was really good to see.”
Just what the “right direction” means is open to interpretation.
“He wants the same thing that we want. We all want to bring a championship to Minnesota. He wants that in the worst way, and that’s one of the most important things, that we all want the same thing,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said he expects “100 percent” participation from his team when training camp starts and that he still has a solid relationship with Harvin.
“There will always be things you have to work though. I think that will always be the case with players and coaches,” Frazier said.
The rest of the receiver group is largely unsettled or at least unproven, which made Harvin’s complaints this week more jarring. Michael Jenkins has a reliable track record as a complementary player, but he’s coming off a season-ending knee injury. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright bring potential, but they’re fourth-round draft picks. Jerome Simpson has shown a lot of ability since signing with the Vikings in April, but he’ll be suspended for the first three games.
This makes Ponder’s second-year development that much more important. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s goal for him in these spring practices was a 75 percent completion rate on first and second downs, and Ponder said he thinks he surpassed that mark this week. He’s up to 233 pounds, from 212 at the start of offseason workouts, so he plans to lose a few before training camp so he doesn’t sacrifice mobility.
“For me the biggest improvement I saw was picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better,” Ponder said. “I think the game’s really slowed down … for me.”
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