Vikings to implement plan B soon at receiver
MANKATO, Minn. — New wide receiver Jerome Simpson has been one of the bright spots in the offseason for the Minnesota Vikings, instantly developing a rapport with quarterback Christian Ponder and giving the team a deep threat at receiver.
But the elephant in the room all along has been Simpson's upcoming suspension, during which he will miss the first three weeks of the regular season due to a federal drug charge of a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.
Minnesota had to get Simpson integrated into the offense, while still developing other players to fill in for the talented receiver during his absence. Once the season begins, Simpson, who is listed as a starter on the team's depth chart, has to stay away from the team's facilities and can't practice with the team. He is eligible to return on Monday, Sept. 24 following Minnesota's Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
So, the time spent working with teammates in training camp has been vital. But offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Simpson's repetitions will decrease "soon" as the team prepares for the first three weeks without him.
"We're about to get to that point," Musgrave said. "We wanted to get Jerome up to speed, but you're right, we're going to get to the point real soon where we start to prepare somebody else to play that split end for the first three games."
The drug charge was one possible reason Simpson was available to Minnesota. Simpson, 26 and the Cincinnati Bengals' second-round draft pick in 2008, is coming off his best season in the NFL with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns.
But Simpson was indicted in January for marijuana trafficking after receiving a shipment of about two pounds of marijuana at his home in Kentucky last September. In a plea agreement, the case was reduced to a prohibited act relating to controlled substances, and Simpson was sentenced to 15 day in jail and three years of probation.
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. But Simpson will have to wait for the chance to prove himself. While his teammates build up to the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Jacksonville, Simpson ramps up and then has to deal with a three-week break he wishes he didn't have.
"Yeah, it kind of sucks because you always want to be out there playing," Simpson said. "But you just got to try to find the positive about it. I just know that I'll be fresh when I get back in for that Detroit game."
Simpson started the preseason opener Friday at San Francisco, playing opposite one of his possible replacements in Stephen Burton. Though Burton did haul in a 52-yard on the second play from scrimmage, he also dropped a pass.
"It was really frustrating because it was an easy pass and I'm used to making those catches," Simpson said. "I just took my eye off the ball for a second. Christian, he threw a great pass. It was my fault. It was nothing on Christian, he did a perfect job putting the ball where it was supposed to be. I just was trying to make a play and trying as always to score and just took my eyes off the ball for a second."
Griffen back to defensive end: Everson Griffen's move to linebacker was short-lived, again.
Griffen, a 6-foot-3, 273-pound defensive end, was moved to linebacker during minicamp last month in an effort to free up more playing time for the athletic Griffen and to possibly shore up a weak linebacker corps. The Vikings also experimented with Griffen at linebacker during the preseason last year.
The experiment lasted a bit longer this season, but it was ended before the regular season began for the second straight year.
"We feel like this is going to be better for him," coach Leslie Frazier said Monday. "We talked to him Sunday night when we got back. And he agrees that this is better for him to focus on that position. And Erin (Henderson) and Marvin Mitchell are really battling for that spot. They're doing a good job competing. So we feel like we're going to be OK if they continue to develop. And he gives us some things on the defensive line that we knew we had from his past. So we're going to leave him at that position. But he'll still do some linebacker-type work in third-down situations."
Griffen, Minnesota's fourth-round draft pick in 2010, will still be used in more of a hybrid, pass-rushing role similar to how he was deployed last year when he had four sacks and four tackles for loss despite limited playing time.
The Vikings like to use Griffen's athleticism and size in obvious passing situations given his ability to rush the quarterback while standing or in a three-point stance. He has also dropped back in coverage and lined up on the interior of the defensive line on passing downs.
Meanwhile, Griffen is dealing with a knee injury and sat out Tuesday's practice.
Kalil practices with thumb injury: First-round pick Matt Kalil left Monday's afternoon practice with a thumb injury but later returned and was back at practice Tuesday as a full participant.
Frazier said Kalil had an MRI on the thumb Monday to rule out any problems.
Running back Jordan Todman, competing with Lex Hilliard and Derrick Coleman for a backup spot behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, appeared to aggravate his ankle injury during Tuesday's practice. He limped off the field after going out on a pass pattern and didn't return.
Defensive tackle Letroy Guion (knee), receiver Kamar Jorden (hand) and John Carlson (knee) were also observers at Tuesday's practice.
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