NFL confirms Simpson's three-game ban
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The NFL confirmed Monday that new Minnesota Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson has been suspended without pay for the first three games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse program. He will be fined an additional game check, but allowed to return for the Week 4 game at the Detroit Lions.
Simpson, 26, was indicted in January on charges of marijuana trafficking after police say he received a shipment of about two pounds of marijuana at his home in Kentucky in September. In a plea agreement, the case was reduced to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances, and Simpson was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years of probation. Simpson was reportedly facing the three-game suspension from the league, which was confirmed by an NFL spokesperson in an email distributed by the Vikings.
"It's kind of frustrating," Simpson said last week while attending Minnesota's organized team activities. "Yeah it is, because I won't be out there with my guys playing the game I love, but it's the technicality of my situation."
Simpson, the Cincinnati Bengals' second-round draft pick in 2008, is coming off a career-best season in 2011, catching 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in 14 starts for Cincinnati. The Vikings signed him to a one-year, make-good deal in April to be the deep threat at receiver they've been seeking for years.
Simpson hasn't said whether he is trying to appeal the suspension, saying he's leaving all off-field issues to his agent Dave Butz. Meanwhile, he's been an active participant at all of the Vikings' voluntary workouts and practices, trying to earn trust in his new teammates and coaches.
He is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practice and games, including this week's OTAs, next week's mandatory veteran minicamp and training camp, which begins July 16. When the season begins, he will have to spend three weeks away from the team facilities. He is eligible to return to the active roster Sept. 24 after the Vikings' Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Simpson is thankful for his second chance with Minnesota.
"It's absolutely a 'prove it' (season) just because the nature of that I did get in trouble last year, and I have to prove to the league, myself and everybody else out there that I deserve to be in this league . . . " Simpson said earlier this offseason.
Through the first two weeks of OTAs, Simpson has become a go-to target for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder while top receiver Percy Harvin has been rehabbing after shoulder surgery.
"We'll miss him the first couple games," Ponder said. "We're trying to do as much as possible and get on the same page right now and then when he's back, things will be rolling."
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.