Wide receiver Jerome Simpson could get a second chance with the Vikings if early indications prove accurate.
Simpson signed a one-year, $2 million free-agent deal with the Vikings after last April's draft, but a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy and then a back injury shortly after he returned scuttled much of his potential.
"The suspension we knew was going to happen when we signed him and then the injury occurred – I think it was right before the Tennessee game – that kind of set him back for a while," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said last week at the Senior Bowl. "Then he comes out and does some things in the Houston game. And you saw his first game back in the Detroit game, some of the impact plays he had there."
In Simpson's first game following the suspension to start the season, he had four catches for 50 yards, but when he mysteriously woke up with a back injury the morning of the next game against the Tennessee Titans, he entered a frustrating and confounding stretch of the season. He tried to play against the Titans but didn't have any catches. The following week he was inactive, and then went the next eight games without another four-catch performance. It would take nearly two months, but Simpson finally started to get involved more heavily again with four catches against St. Louis on Dec. 16.
Simpson said in November that he got his "juice back," but he admitted after the season that there were still some issues at that time.
"Later in the season, I started to get my groove back and my legs got back up under me. I just felt more comfortable just playing," he said after the regular season.
"It just got better and better these last probably like five games. I just felt like I had my push-off and my speed and everything."
Spielman said the Vikings would "love" to have Simpson back, and Simpson feels the same way.
"I want to be here and make plays for this team and I'll do whatever possible that I can do. I felt I blocked, that I caught the ball and ran. I really want to be here," he said. "I love my teammates and my owner and GM and everybody around here. … I just love being in this atmosphere. It's all love here and they trust in me and they know what I can do."
Simpson said after the season that there hadn't been any talk of a contract extension, but in two interviews since the Vikings' season ended, Spielman sounds as if the team is open to Simpson returning and trying to live up to the explosive potential they saw in him before his injury.
"Jerome fits in. We'd love to have Jerome back," Spielman said, later adding: "Jerome had the suspension and then the leg injury was pretty significant and then he started to get a lot better. I think Jerome, if we're able to look at potentially doing something with him, that he has the potential to really thrive if we were able to get something done with him."
Simpson finished with 26 catches on 51 targets for 274 yards in 2012 after posting a career-best 50 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns in his final season in Cincinnati.
"I definitely love being here in Minnesota and playing for the Vikings and this coaching staff. I definitely want to be back here," he said. "I guess we'll just play those cards out when they're dealt. I feel like there's a lot of potential in this team and I just love being around these guys and my coaching staff because I feel like they believe in me."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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