The Vikings' contingency plan will be starting soon with Jerome Simpson.
Simpson, one of the Vikings' top free-agent signings of the offseason, is suspended for the first three games of the regular season after authorities found 2½ pounds of marijuana was shipped to his Kentucky home last September.
Simpson was sentenced to 15 days in jail, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service, a $7,500 fine and court costs after pleading guilty to a prohibited act relating to a controlled substance. Authorities said they found another pound of marijuana inside his house.
By all accounts, Simpson has impressed the Vikings coaching staff with his attitude and work ethic since joining the team, but they will have to find a replacement for his role as a deep-threat receiver when his suspension begins. That process will start soon.
"We're about to get to that point," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We wanted to get Jerome up to speed, but you're right, we're going to get to the point here real soon in August where we start to prepare somebody else to play that split end for the first three games."
Simpson said he knew this time was coming, but he isn't happy that he will be forced to miss the first three games of the season.
"It kind of sucks. You always just want to be out there playing, but you've got to just find a positive about it and I just feel that I'll be fresh coming back in that Detroit game," Simpson said.
That has been Simpson's standard reply, but the Vikings have had to call at least one audible on his potential replacements. When rookie receiver Greg Childs tore the patellar tendons in both of his knees 10 days ago, it took away what might have been the team's most logical replacement for Simpson.
Childs and Simpson have similar builds – Childs is 6-foot-3 and Simpson 6-foot-2 – and both have the speed to separate from defensive backs.
Now it will be up to role players like Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Emmanuel Arceneaux to try to replicate what was expected of Simpson and a rapport with QB Christian Ponder.
"Anybody could step up. Devin's been doing really good. Manny Arceneaux, he's been doing really good," Simpson said. "All the guys have been doing good. Any guy that steps in there, they're going to fulfill their role."
The wide receivers as a whole didn't have a very impressive outing in the preseason opener. Aromashodu was targeted three times without a catch. Jenkins caught only one of three targets, dropping one of them. And Simpson dropped the only pass that came his way.
"It was really frustrating because it was an easy pass and I usually make those catches," Simpson said. "I just took my eye off the ball for a second and Christian, he threw a great pass. It was all my fault. It was nothing on Christian. He did a perfect job of putting the ball where it's supposed to be. I was just trying to make a play and trying to always just score. I just took my eyes off the ball for a second."
Last year, Simpson was ninth in the league with eight dropped passes, according to Stats LLC. Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White led the NFL with 14 drops in 2011, but the top-10 list also included such notables as Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe (12), Miami's Brandon Marshall (12), Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (11) and Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson (9).
Musgrave said he was disappointed with the offensive production Friday night, especially the fact they only scored six points on two field goals, in the preseason opener.
"We were disappointed in the production. We wanted to be out there on the field more than we were," Musgrave said. "We were only out there 50 plays, so we have some making up to do in that department."
While Simpson said the chemistry between him and Ponder is progressing – not perfect but getting better, he said – that could get interrupted in the coming weeks.
Musgrave said Simpson will play in the third preseason game, when teams usually play their starters the most, but he could split time with the first- and second-team offenses as the coaches look to incorporate Simpson's replacement receivers with Ponder running the offense.
"There is some good depth at the wide receiver position, so we're going to give everybody their shot to crack the starting lineup at that split end position for sure," Musgrave said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Simpson replacement plan coming soon
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