EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings had to wait through receiver Jerome Simpson’s three-game absence at the start of the season to see the impact he would make on their offense.
Now they are in wait-and-see mode again, hoping Simpson can come back from a back injury that flared up Sunday and caused him to be limited in last week’s win against the Tennessee Titans.
Simpson, a highly athletic receiver signed in the offseason to provide a downfield threat, went through a battery of tests Monday and Tuesday to see just what caused him to wake up with weakness and numbness in his left leg Sunday morning. Simpson was held out of practice Wednesday while undergoing treatment, but Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier was hopeful he could practice Thursday.
“Everything they’ve told me, it’s just something attributed to something going on with his back,” Frazier said. “So, they’re taking him through some exercises. But he’s improved. That’s the good news. He’s much better than he was on Sunday. He went through the walk-through fine, but this is more precautionary to give him another day of rest and recuperation and then we’ll get him back out here tomorrow.”
Frazier hasn’t said what is causing the issue in Simpson’s back, but he has been assured that surgery won’t be needed and that the injury isn’t expected to have any long-term effects. Simpson woke up with the unexplained injury Sunday and went to the Metrodome before the Vikings’ 30-7 win against Tennessee. He then worked out in front of the team’s medical staff before the game and was one of five active receivers, but he was held to zero catches on three targets. He ended up playing just 35 percent of the team’s 69 offensive snaps.
Simpson, who caught four passes for 50 yards in Week 4 after coming off a three-game suspension to open the season, could be ready to play Sunday as Minnesota (4-1) travels to play the Washington Redskins (2-3).
“Yeah, all indications are there’s a very good chance,” Frazier said of Simpson’s status for Sunday. “We’ll know more how he responds to some of the treatment they give him today. Hopefully we’ll get him back out at practice tomorrow, but we don’t think it’s anything long-term at all.”
Simpson, signed after a career season with Cincinnati last year, was expected to give Minnesota a deep threat at receiver, while standout receiver Percy Harvin and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson work the short part of the field. Simpson had to serve a three-game suspension for a federal drug charge of a prohibited act relating to controlled substances. Meanwhile, Carlson has only two catches this season. But the Vikings are off to one of the more surprising starts in the NFL and are tied with the Chicago Bears atop the NFC North.
Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu caught three passes each last week while Simpson was limited. Simpson was targeted on the first pass of the game but never seemed able to get over the weakness in his foot. Frazier said Simpson had trouble pushing off his left leg.
“He did OK, but it was bothering him from a mental standpoint,” Frazier said. “He couldn’t really do some things he wanted to do. It really affected him from that standpoint, but physically he was able to give us some plays, but not the type of plays he would be proud of or happy with. In the limited time, the good thing is we’ve got some time between now and Sunday where he’ll have a chance to continue to improve.”
Running back Adrian Peterson was also held out of Wednesday’s practice, dealing with soreness in his left ankle. Peterson said he twisted the ankle on the second play of Sunday’s game but played through the pain. He ended up with 88 yards on 17 carries, saying he “refocused” himself after halftime because he was thinking too much of the ankle during the first half.
Frazier said Monday he didn’t think Peterson would have to miss Sunday’s game.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams missed practice Wednesday because of a stomach virus but is expected back later in the week.