Jerome Felton’s tough preseason took another bad turn on Monday.
Felton, the Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl fullback, was suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The suspension dates back to Felton’s arrest for DWI on June 2, 2012. Felton’s charges were reduced to reckless driving and he appealed the suspension, but the league handed down its ruling on Monday.
Felton, who earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season while blocking for MVP running back Adrian Peterson, is suspended without pay and is eligible to return following Minnesota’s Week 3 game at home against the Cleveland Browns. Felton and the Vikings agreed to terms on a new three-year, $7.5 million contract this offseason. He is due $850,000 base salary in the first year of his deal, meaning he will lose $150,000 because of the suspension.
“We respect the league’s decision and Jerome understands it. Jerome is focused on returning to the playing field in week four vs. Pittsburgh,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement.
Felton, who has been out for the past week while recovering from an emergency appendectomy, can return for Minnesota’s Week 4 game in London against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the league’s annual international series. Felton had been ruled out for the rest of the preseason after undergoing an appendectomy on Aug. 14 on the final day of training camp in Mankato, Minn., but he was expected to return in time for the start of the regular season.
Now, Felton’s suspension will start on Aug. 31, the day NFL teams must reach their 53-man active roster for the season and he can return to practice on Sept. 23.
Minnesota’s offense hasn’t looked sharp in the preseason, in part because Peterson has only played two snaps and hasn’t carried the ball. Felton had only played six snaps, all in the first preseason game. Without Felton to lead the way for Peterson, the Vikings will likely look to second-year tight end Rhett Ellison.
Minnesota also has undrafted rookie Zach Line on its roster, along with running back Matt Asiata, who was converted from fullback last year. Line was an accomplished runner at Southern Methodist, where he ran for over 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons. He scored on a 61-yard touchdown reception in the first preseason game, but Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the team needs to see him block more.