Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One of the toughest players in the NFLcan't recover from a sprained left ankle in eight weeks?
That's the story the Minnesota Vikings were selling on Thursday, a day afterplacing star receiver Percy Harvin on season-ending injured reserve.
Minnesota made the curious move late Wednesday afternoon long after theplayers were gone from Winter Park and the coaches were safely tucked awayfrom any available media members.
No problem, the locals could grab Harvin on Thursday and ask him if there wasa setback or something far more serious with the ankle right?
The Vikings issued a statement purportedly from Harvin in lieu of making himavailable.
"It certainly is disappointing that I was not able to finish out this seasonwith my teammates," the statement read. "As a competitor I definitely wantedto get back out on the field but my injury has just not allowed me to progressto the point where I can help our team.
"I appreciate the efforts of our medical staff and the support of our fans inhelping me through this process and look forward to coming back stronger andbetter than ever."
Harvin remains in the Twin Cities, according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier,but no decision has been made on where he will continue his rehabilitation.
"Our medical staff, our trainers did everything they could," Frazier said."And still are. They're still going to go through rehab and try to do thethings that are necessary to get him back. Which he'll be back eventually. Butjust not this season."
There are two explanations here.
The Vikings are lying about the severity of the injury or Harvin is unhappyagain and Minnesota wants to keep him away from shell-shocked second-yearquarterback Christian Ponder.
ESPN Twin Cities reported earlier this week that Harvin had a "Grade 3"sprain, which includes a full ligament tear and can take four to six weeks tocompletely heal.
That at least makes some sense since Harvin is a warrior, at least on Sundays.A run of the mill ankle sprain -- even a high ankle sprain -- isn't going tokeep him on the shelf for eight weeks.
Harvin attempted to practice once last week but had trouble attempting to cuton the ankle, according to media members who attended the open portion of hesession.
"He made some progress at times, but it was incremental. Just not the progresswe needed to see along the way," Frazier said. "We've got to step back alittle bit and try to do the things that are necessary for him and best for usand let him concentrate on getting well. He's such a valuable commodity. Youdon't want to do anything that's going to create some long-term ill effects."
Sounds logical enough and it's also understandable why Minnesota might hidethat type of information when the plan was for Harvin to come back at somepoint.
Heck, maybe if Harvin's 2012 season didn't begin with a trade demand duringthe summer we could all take this at face value and move on.
Maybe if the University of Florida product didn't balk at how he was beingused by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in the past none of this would bean issue.
Maybe if we didn't see Harvin yell at Frazier on the sidelines in Seattleback on Nov. 4 we could buy into that impeccably worded statement.
Perhaps if we never saw Ponder try to kill Harvin on a handful of bubblescreens with the kind of accuracy Nuke LaLoosh or Ricky Vaughn might laugh at,we could all say Harvin was happy in Minneapolis and looked forward to comingback.
Instead I'm forced to join the Oliver Stone crowd and shout conspiracy.
While certainly injured the guess here is Harvin is fed up with playing withPonder and is being kept away since the Vikings understand their playoff hopesare all but over and Percy is prone to let his frustrations boil over.
For whatever reason Frazier and his general manger, Rick Spielman, havehitched their wagons to a quarterback who has shown virtually nothing after 22starts in the NFL.
The template for the true believers in Eden Prairie is Eli Manning. Peyton'sbaby brother looked lost during his early years in New York with strongpersonalities like Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey undermining him, beforefinally turning into a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback after themalcontents were jettisoned.
It's the classic addition by subtraction defense but there's one big problemwith that here.
Manning was a huge prospect with a pedigree, the No. 1 overall pick in the2004 NFL Draft. Most thought Ponder was a second round talent before Spielmanthrew his back out reaching for him with the 12th choice in the 2011 class.
In the NBA Rasheed Wallace is fond of saying "ball don't lie." In the NFL,it's the film which doesn't lie and when watching Ponder, that filmshows a quarterback with laughable mechanics and poor footwork, an overmatchedsignal-caller who defaults to sliding out of the pocket instead of steppingup.
At his absolute worst, most in the NFL still understood Manning had thephysical skills and mental gifts to succeed at the position. Ponder, on theother hand, looks more and more like a poor man's Kevin Kolb.
Ponder has the game's best running back, Adrian Peterson, at his disposal andthree offensive lineman, center John Sullivan, rookie left tackle Matt Kaliland right tackle Phil Loadholt, who deserve serious Pro Bowl consideration. Healso had Harvin, one of the game's truly elite playmakers, for the first ninegames of the season yet the former Florida State star can't pull off simpleplay-action.
Peterson was spectacular in Green Bay last week, running for 210 yards alongwith a career-long 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter but as good asA.P. was, that's how bad Ponder performed in a 23-14 setback.
The second-year pro managed just 119 yards passing, most of that in garbagetime late, with a touchdown, while tossing two interceptions and hitting onjust 12-of-25 attempts.
Both of Ponder's picks came with the Vikings in field goal range after longruns by Peterson, with one coming in the end zone. In this pass happy era, theembattled signal caller completed only five passes on one drive in the firsthalf until the game was decided and Green Bay let up. At one point he wentnearly 39 minutes of game time without completing a pass.
"Looking at that loss, we were in that game. Some of the mistakes I made werefrustrating," Ponder said. "Obviously, I'm always critical of myself, but itwas such an important game, and they were such costly mistakes -- that werebecause of me.
"It's kind of a wake-up call. Obviously, I need to be doing some stuffdifferently and change my game and elevate my play, especially with where weare in the season and with the goals that are in our hands. I've got to makesure I give our team a chance to be successful and achieve those goals."
After the ugly loss Frazier took a chance and expressed his support forPonder, a decision which could have hurt him badly in the locker room,especially among his veteran players who understand Ponder isn't carrying hisown water.
"Christian is our quarterback," Frazier said. "We are going to do all we canto help him have a good game against Chicago (this week) and to help our teamgo out and get a win."
That was finally tempered a bit after Frazier looked at the film of Ponder'sperformance in Titletown, one which could double as a Wes Craven flick formost Minnesota fans.
Asked if continuing to support a player performing so poorly could affect hislocker room, Frazier was uncommonly truthful for an NFL coach.
"I've thought about that a lot because when you're struggling at a position,the guys know how we talked about everybody doing their jobs and why it'simportant for us to have our success," Frazier said. "You don't want to sendmixed messages at any position."
Harvin seems to be the first to have picked up on Frazier's mixed messages.
He won't be the last.