The Minnesota Vikings placed ailing wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve Wednesday, abruptly ending a season that began so well for one of the NFL's most versatile players.
Coach Leslie Frazier answered questions about Harvin's status cryptically and vaguely at his regular news conference, when he ruled Harvin out of practice again because of the severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of the last three games. Then about six hours later, the Vikings announced the move that declared their top pass-catcher done for the year.
During an outstanding first half that put him in the conversation for the league's Most Valuable Player award, Harvin's season sure deteriorated quickly. He was hurt one month ago. Now this.
"We'll see what happens," quarterback Christian Ponder said before the news came out. "I don't know what or when he'll be back. We're just focused on who's going to be out there, who's going to be practicing today."
Even bad sprains don't normally take more than four to six weeks to fully heal, so it's possible the injury is worse than originally revealed, perhaps requiring surgery. Neither team officials nor players were available for comment on the decision.
Harvin wasn't on the indoor field at Winter Park as the Vikings went through drills in preparation for another critical NFC North game, this one at home against division co-leader Chicago. He wasn't in the locker room when it was open to reporters, either.
Harvin was injured Nov. 4 at Seattle, leaving briefly in the third quarter of that game but returning with an obvious limp. He has missed three games since and only taken part in practice once since the injury, a week ago as a limited participant.
Harvin was favouring his right foot running routes that afternoon during the portion of the workout that was open to the media, looking far less than full strength when pushing off or planting to change direction. Ponder has struggled at times even with Harvin, by far his favourite target, so this certainly won't help the team's lagging passing attack.
In nine games, Harvin finished with 677 yards and three touchdowns on 62 receptions, 22 rushes for 96 yards and one score and one kickoff return for a touchdown. Now he's headed for the final year of his rookie contract, without any promise of an extension offer from the team.
"I know that he wants to win like we do, and I'm sure he's going to do everything he can do to help our football team. We'll see where it goes," Frazier said when asked if there were issues with Harvin beyond the injury. The coach said he couldn't go into greater detail about Harvin's condition but said the former first-round draft pick has "done pretty much the things that the trainers have asked him to do" in his rehabilitation.
Frazier said he'd probably have a better answer Thursday to the question about whether Harvin would be able to face Chicago, alluding to the injured reserve move before it became known. Frazier said "not a whole lot" has changed with Harvin's condition but alluded to "some things" he's waiting for.
"Just got to see what's going to happen with him," said Frazier.
Harvin caused a stir this summer by expressing unspecified disappointment with the organization and issuing a trade request he quietly rescinded. Harvin's gripe, he later acknowledged, was in part because of the way the team unevenly used him in the offence.
He often moved from spot to spot to maximize his versatility and sometimes was limited to certain personnel groups so the Vikings could protect his health. But that became confusing and frustrating to him at times, he said, because he didn't always know what to expect.
That fuss was all but forgotten with the season he was having, leading the NFL in total rushing, receiving and returning yards until his injury.
Harvin missed a total of three games over his first three seasons, enduring problems with migraine headaches, which haven't given him trouble lately.