Jerome Simpson has spent the last 2½ half weeks scratching X's into his calendar waiting for the day when his three-game suspension is over. One of the more impressive players during training camp and the preseason, Simpson has been sidelined since Labor Day Weekend, unable to work with his teammates on the field.
As of Wednesday, he was able to scratch off another day, leaving just four more until the date he has circled – Monday, Sept. 24 – when he can actually get back on the field and officially start his career as a Minnesota Viking.
He has found ways to occupy his time and keep himself in game shape. He has lifted weights, spending more time with the strength and conditioning coaches than with receivers coach George Stewart and his teammates. He has gone to meetings. He has watched countless hours of game film. He has worked out on his own. He has acclimated himself to the Twin Cities by going on long-distance bike rides.
But Simpson is the first to admit that, regardless of how much time he spends keeping in shape, building up his cardiovascular endurance and pushing himself, that might not be an adequate replacement for practicing with his team and playing in games.
"Not really," Simpson said. "It's not like real action when you're going against a real live person and going off their judgment. You can't really replicate practice."
The worst part of being muzzled and limited in what he can do is that plays in the Vikings' first two games has him thinking if he was on the field, the result might have been different.
"You're going out there and seeing things that are happening on the field, especially when you're not in there, you're like, ‘Oh, man, I could have done that or done this,'" Simpson said.
Of all the frustrations that Simpson has endured during his suspension, dealing with hypothetical questions from the media has been part of the process. Asked if he thought the Vikings would have potentially been 2-0 with him in the lineup – Christian Ponder hasn't completed a pass more than 20 yards on the fly in two games – Simpson decided to be diplomatic.
"It's kind of hard to say," he said. "I think the guys we had (on the field) did a good job. I hope that I can bring a presence here to help."
Sunday's game will be the last that Simpson will be forced to miss and he can't wait for the clouds to lift and to get back on the field. He has kept himself in top physical shape, but three weeks away from practice will have taken a bit of a toll on him and he expects that there will be some time required to get up to game speed.
"I'm pretty sure there will be a little rust," Simpson said. "But I'm athletic and I've been staying in shape just trying my best to keep myself up to par. I hope that this is something that I'm not going to be set back too far, which I don't think I will be."
He is realistic about his projection. He likely won't simply step on the field and be a big-play threat on every down, but Simpson is willing to take on whatever role he is assigned – even if it means being a fast decoy that creates gaps for the team's other offensive stars.
"I want to do whatever possible to help this team," Simpson said. "If I have to take two defenders (with me) to help open up Percy or Adrian, I want to do that."
As Simpson continues to put X's through the days counting down to his return to Winter Park as a full-fledged member of the Vikings, he has promised that the off-field problems he got himself into are behind him and that his penance will be over and he can get back to doing what he loves – playing football and making big plays for his offense.
"It's been a really long couple three weeks," Simpson said. "I've been counting it down ever since (the suspension) started and I'm just glad it's coming to an end. It's been tough to sit and watch when I feel like I could help our team, but, it will all be over Monday and hopefully I can step in and be someone who can make a difference with this offense."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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