Vikings' Simpson ready to use energy on field
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jerome Simpson was forced to live life as a Minnesota Vikings fan the past three Sundays while serving his three-game suspension, and it wasn't easy on the excitable Minnesota receiver — or his dog.
Simpson shared the ups and downs of the Vikings through an intense three weeks and learned what it was like watching the game from the comforts of his couch, including having to deal with commercials.
"Scream the whole time," Simpson said of his game-watching tendencies. "I'm just like a fan, maybe even worse than a real fan. It was just me and my French bulldog, Yoshi, and I was kind of in there by myself most of the time, getting too wired up for him. I was into the game the whole time. I hate commercial breaks. I hate those."
Commercial breaks will be a bit easier for Simpson to handle now that he'll be back on the field. Simpson was activated this week from his three-game suspension for a federal drug charge of a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.
Practicing Wednesday for the first time since the preseason ended, Simpson was ready to channel his enthusiasm in a more constructive way than yelling at his television.
"Oh, he's fired up," coach Leslie Frazier said. "He's champing at the bit as you can imagine. He's extremely excited about now being able to practice with his teammates and be engaged in everything we're doing. So, he's pretty pumped up."
Minnesota's offense is excited as well, knowing the energetic and athletic Simpson can pump up the offensive game plan even more. The Vikings have the league's 15th-ranked offense through the first three weeks and are 18th in passing, averaging 239.1 yards per game. But much of the success has come from a short passing attack, and the lack of pass plays over 15 yards has been glaring.
Enter Simpson, one of the key offseason acquisitions when Minnesota signed the former Cincinnati Bengals receiver despite the looming suspension. Simpson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster, is coming off his best NFL season, when he caught 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns for the Bengals, who had made him their second-round draft pick in 2008.
Simpson clicked immediately this offseason with Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, but the two had to temper the excitement knowing the three-game suspension was coming. Meanwhile, Percy Harvin has been the big-play threat and his leading the league in receptions and all-purpose yards.
The highly athletic Simpson adds a different dimension for Minnesota. Ponder and Simpson had a little trouble connecting during the portion of practice opened to the media on Wednesday. But Simpson said the two later connected on a deep pass that went about 60 yards.
"He's just getting back used to my speed, just how I run my routes and everything," Simpson said. "Just a little rust, but during practice we made some connections. We had an early go ball early in practice that we connected on, so it was good."
And Simpson's energetic personality was rubbing off on teammates his first day back at practice.
"He's got quite the enthusiasm for the game of football, so I can imagine what it's going to be like in practice today," Ponder said. "Everyone feeds off that energy. He's got so much energy that he brings to the table. He loves being out here. He's going to be ready to work."
Simpson has said he's appreciative of the second chance the Vikings gave him after the drug issues of last year. He hopes after serving his suspension he won't have to revisit the past problems and is just happy to be back on the field.
"It was great, just like a kid in the candy store," Simpson said of his first day back at practice. "It was great to back out there with the guys running plays. Actually being able to run real plays with the quarterback and just trying to get my timing down."
The Vikings have a three-day roster exemption and won't need to make a corresponding roster move until Thursday afternoon. Frazier said the team has an idea which way it will go to make roster space for Simpson, but he didn't want to mention what the team will do.
Frazier wasn't shy about the plan for Simpson, though.
"We're going to use him quite a bit," Frazier said. "We want to get him involved. A lot of it will depend on how he does this week in practice, his first action back. But, we definitely want to get him involved."
Simpson has been around the team facilities throughout the suspension, benefiting from an NFL rule that allows players suspended under similar drug-related issues to stay with the team and receive support. Simpson has been allowed to work out and has been in meetings, so no one expects the transition to take long.
His speed and athleticism will help stretch the field and offer more of a deep threat. Ponder has been careful to not take chances down the field. Simpson should change that, but Ponder still doesn't want to force the issue.
"Again, we're not going to try and force things," Ponder said. "We're going to use Jerome to get downfield, and obviously he's got the speed to do it. Try to do some things to get the ball downfield and we want to make big plays, but we're not going to force them."
Simpson is ready, whatever he's called to do.
"I hope that when I come back, it's not missteps and I don't put the offense behind anything," Simpson said. "I just want to keep on rolling and be that piece to the puzzle that helps this team connect even better."
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