SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Receiver Jerome Simpson has been suspended for the first six games of the regular season without pay for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the San Francisco 49ers announced Tuesday.
Simpson did not play in the NFL in 2014 after getting released from the Vikings following a three-game suspension stemming from his third run in with the law since 2012. He would have been eligible to return to the field Sept. 28 of last year, but Minnesota learned of Simpson getting cited for marijuana possession July 7, 2014, and released him. Simpson was charged with a misdemeanor for having an open bottle and marijuana in his vehicle while driving on a suspended license.
Simpson signed a two-year contract with the 49ers this offseason. The team said it was aware of a pending suspension following the incident from July 2014.
"The probability of a suspension was known when we signed Jerome. Since joining the 49ers, Jerome has proven to be a great teammate," general manager Trent Baalke wrote in a statement. "Although he will not be able to participate in the first six weeks of the season, Jerome has done everything asked of him, both on and off the field. We are in full support of the NFL’s decision, and look forward to Jerome’s future contributions to our organization."
Head coach Jim Tomsula said Tuesday, "Look, there’s consequences to everything you do. Jerome was out of football for a year. We know there were things in the past year, what he’s doing now, he’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s on a good plan. He also understands there’s no margin for error. I do believe in Jerome. And I think this is going to be a success story."
In January 2012, Simpson was arrested when police seized a 2.5 package of marijuana addressed to his home. In November 2013, he was arrested on suspicion of DWI before pleading guilty to careless driving.
Simpson, 29, was drafted in the second round out of Coastal Carolina University with the Bengals' 46th-overall pick in 2008. During his four seasons with Cincinnati, he averaged 14.1 yards per catch, notching 1,004 yards on 71 receptions and seven touchdowns. He went on to the Vikings in 2012, where he made 18 starts while appearing in 28 games.
Simpson registered the 49ers' longest catch in Saturday's preseason opener against the Houston Texans for 25 yards. He was earmarked to compete for the third receiver role behind starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith with Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington and DeAndrew White.
After previous two suspensions and arrest in July 2014, Simpson was surprised the 49ers were willing to sign him.
"But the coaches here, ownership, they believed in me," said Simpson Tuesday. "They did a background check. I came in for a workout, interview. I just put everything out on the table and told the truth. These guys, they believe in me, and I believe in them."
Simpson remains eligible to participate in practice and preseason games. He can return to the 49ers for Thursday Oct. 22's game against the Seattle Seahawks.