Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One of the toughest players in the NFL can't recover from a sprained left ankle in eight weeks?
That's the story the Minnesota Vikings were selling on Thursday, a day after placing star receiver Percy Harvin on season-ending injured reserve.
Minnesota made the curious move late Wednesday afternoon long after the players were gone from Winter Park and the coaches were safely tucked away from any available media members.
No problem, the locals could grab Harvin on Thursday and ask him if there was a setback or something far more serious with the ankle right?
The Vikings issued a statement purportedly from Harvin in lieu of making him available.
"It certainly is disappointing that I was not able to finish out this season with my teammates," the statement read. "As a competitor I definitely wanted to get back out on the field but my injury has just not allowed me to progress to the point where I can help our team.
"I appreciate the efforts of our medical staff and the support of our fans in helping me through this process and look forward to coming back stronger and better 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 the things that are necessary to get him back. Which he'll be back eventually. But just not this season."
There are two explanations here.
The Vikings are lying about the severity of the injury or Harvin is unhappy again and Minnesota wants to keep him away from shell-shocked second-year quarterback 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 to completely 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 to keep him on the shelf for eight weeks.
Harvin attempted to practice once last week but had trouble attempting to cut on the ankle, according to media members who attended the open portion of he session.
"He made some progress at times, but it was incremental. Just not the progress we needed to see along the way," Frazier said. "We've got to step back a little bit and try to do the things that are necessary for him and best for us and let him concentrate on getting well. He's such a valuable commodity. You don'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 hide that type of information when the plan was for Harvin to come back at some point.
Heck, maybe if Harvin's 2012 season didn't begin with a trade demand during the 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 being used by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in the past none of this would be an issue.
Maybe if we didn't see Harvin yell at Frazier on the sidelines in Seattle back 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 bubble screens 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 coming back.
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 with Ponder and is being kept away since the Vikings understand their playoff hopes are all but over and Percy is prone to let his frustrations boil over.
For whatever reason Frazier and his general manger, Rick Spielman, have hitched their wagons to a quarterback who has shown virtually nothing after 22 starts in the NFL.
The template for the true believers in Eden Prairie is Eli Manning. Peyton's baby brother looked lost during his early years in New York with strong personalities like Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey undermining him, before finally turning into a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback after the malcontents were jettisoned.
It's the classic addition by subtraction defense but there's one big problem with that here.
Manning was a huge prospect with a pedigree, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Most thought Ponder was a second round talent before Spielman threw 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 film shows a quarterback with laughable mechanics and poor footwork, an overmatched signal-caller who defaults to sliding out of the pocket instead of stepping up.
At his absolute worst, most in the NFL still understood Manning had the physical skills and mental gifts to succeed at the position. Ponder, on the other 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 and three offensive lineman, center John Sullivan, rookie left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Phil Loadholt, who deserve serious Pro Bowl consideration. He also had Harvin, one of the game's truly elite playmakers, for the first nine games of the season yet the former Florida State star can't pull off simple play-action.
Peterson was spectacular in Green Bay last week, running for 210 yards along with a career-long 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter but as good as A.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 garbage time late, with a touchdown, while tossing two interceptions and hitting on just 12-of-25 attempts.
Both of Ponder's picks came with the Vikings in field goal range after long runs by Peterson, with one coming in the end zone. In this pass happy era, the embattled signal caller completed only five passes on one drive in the first half until the game was decided and Green Bay let up. At one point he went nearly 39 minutes of game time without completing a pass.
"Looking at that loss, we were in that game. Some of the mistakes I made were frustrating," Ponder said. "Obviously, I'm always critical of myself, but it was such an important game, and they were such costly mistakes -- that were because of me.
"It's kind of a wake-up call. Obviously, I need to be doing some stuff differently and change my game and elevate my play, especially with where we are in the season and with the goals that are in our hands. I've got to make sure 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 for Ponder, a decision which could have hurt him badly in the locker room, especially among his veteran players who understand Ponder isn't carrying his own water.
"Christian is our quarterback," Frazier said. "We are going to do all we can to help him have a good game against Chicago (this week) and to help our team go out and get a win."
That was finally tempered a bit after Frazier looked at the film of Ponder's performance in Titletown, one which could double as a Wes Craven flick for most Minnesota fans.
Asked if continuing to support a player performing so poorly could affect his locker 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's important for us to have our success," Frazier said. "You don't want to send mixed 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.