On Harvin, Shih Tzus and risk-reward

April, 26, 2009
4/26/09
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I mentioned Saturday that at the very least, Minnesota had some explaining to do after drafting Florida receiver Percy Harvin with the No. 22 overall pick. The Vikings have gone out of their way to emphasize character and citizenship in the wake of their 2005 "Love Boat" embarrassment, and Harvin isn't exactly a blue-chip prospect in either category.

 Harvin

But it appears that Harvin convinced coach Brad Childress during a day-long visit Wednesday to Gainesville, Fla. Childress not only met with Harvin, but also his family, Gators coach Urban Meyer and other members of the Florida football staff. According to Harvin, the day went like this:

"It was kind of like we were just buddies and just doing a lot of things. We went out to eat. ... For the most part it was just hanging out and getting to know each other. It was a great, tremendous visit. Even after that we kind of texted each other. Everything was very good."

Childress told reporters in Minnesota that he asked Harvin to drive him to his family's house so he could meet his relatives. At one point, Childress said he grabbed his notebook -- much like a reporter -- and started checklisting the questions he had jotted down.

Childress: "I am very aware that somebody can put their best foot forward in the time that you are there, but I just think the whole talking to the guys on the staff, talking with him, being able to spend time with him, understand where he is at, how he was raised, being able to talk to his stepdad, being able to talk to mom, being able to talk to grandma, and spend some time that you normally wouldn't get a chance to spend. I asked him if it took him back to college recruiting, because there I was with their Shih Tzu and bouncing a baby on my knee, literally. So I just think, obviously, you want to do the right thing. You want to make sure you are bringing the right people in here. Can he fit? Can he coexist? Can he be a good teammate? All of those kind of things."

Harvin reportedly tested positive for drugs at the February scouting combine, of which Childress said:

"I think he is a guy that has made a mistake. I think we have all made mistakes. I think the big thing is that you look it in the eye; you recognize it for what it is, you admit to it and then I think how you deal with adversity as you go forward. Do you let it bury you? Or do you fix it? That's part of growing up. That's part of that growing process."

The drug issue is one of many questions about Harvin, who reportedly has had some difficulty accepting coaching during his career. Childress admitted that he might not have been willing to take on a player with Harvin's baggage during the early part of his tenure in Minnesota -- when he was attempting to strike a "culture change" in the locker room. "It's a risk-reward type thing." Childress said.

I was as surprised as anyone when the Vikings started investigating Harvin, but I do believe they were in position to take a risk with this draft. (Especially when it was mitigated by taking a potential starting right tackle in the second round in Oklahoma's Phil Loadholt.) There aren't many personnel holes on this Vikings team, and from a football perspective Harvin could add a playmaking element that nears the impact of tailback Adrian Peterson in 2007.

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said Saturday night that Harvin is the kind of car guaranteed to crash at some point, so the key is having a good mechanic to fix him when he's damaged. That's the role Childress has taken on in this scenario. If he and his staff can keep Harvin focused and motivated, the Vikings have executed one of the coups of draft weekend.

If they can't, however, they'll have a hard time justifying their public stance about maintaining the character of their locker room.

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