Bethel-Thompson played in the preseason opener, but completed just 3 of 7 passes for 49 yards, one interception and took two sacks. However, a strong arm and a decent training camp has the Vikings wanting to see more of him before making their final roster decisions.
"Probably the plan right now is to get more time with Bethel, just to show what he's capable of doing," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Tuesday. "We feel we kind of know where Joe is at this point. Sage, with all the years of experience that he has, we kind of think we have a pretty good feel of where he is. But we need to get a better feel for Bethel, so he's going to get the majority of play time."
NFL rosters are required to be whittled down from 75 to 53 players by 8 p.m. Central Friday. While Bethel-Thompson would appear to be a longshot with two younger quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and Webb, already on the roster, Frazier wasn't completely closing off the option of Bethel-Thompson working his way into the top three.
"You never know. The door's not shut. You'd like to see how he does," Frazier said. "He's done a good job in practices, from the time we had him back in the spring through the preseason, so we'd like to see how he does."
If he doesn't make the 53-man roster, he is eligible for the eight-man practice squad that can be assembled at noon Saturday.
Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson can be at the team's facility during his three-game suspension, Frazier revealed Tuesday, but he can't participate in practices.
"He can come to the meetings. He can't practice," Frazier said. "He can't work out with the guys. He can't be in the weight room working out with the guys, but he can get with (strength and conditioning coach) Tom Kanavy and do things with him alone."
That may be a bit confusing, but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello clarified the situation in an e-mail, saying players suspended under the league's steroids and related substances policy, like Kevin Williams was for two games last year, are treated differently than those suspended under the substance abuse policy. Simpson's suspension stems from his arrest for have more than two pounds of marijuana shipped to his Kentucky home last year.
Rules on what a player can and can't do when they are suspended under the substance abuse policy "changed in conjunction with the union several years ago. Such a player suspended for substance abuse can be at the facility to provide him with structure and support during his suspension," Aiello wrote in an e-mail to Viking Update.
With Simpson out for three games, coaches want to get an extended look at four receivers who are vying for what could be three roster spots after Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins.
Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright will get "quite a bit" of playing time Thursday night and so will Devin Aromashodu, Frazier said. Emmanuel Arceneaux also figures into that mix.
"I don't know how many starters Houston is going to play on defense, but I'd like to see – all of us would like to see – one of those guys make some big plays down the field or beat man coverage," Frazier said. "Houston plays a lot of man coverage, so that would be good to see if we can find someone who can show they can separate and win some one-on-ones. Maybe between those four that are playing, we'll find that."
Jenkins might not play at all if the other four receivers stay healthy throughout the game.
Frazier said the Vikings "more than likely" would keep five receivers in addition to Simpson, who doesn't count against the 53-man roster during his suspension.
The Vikings also have the No. 3 spot in claiming order for the waiver wire, which is also a possibility to add talent at the position.
EXTENSIVE INACTIVE LIST
The Vikings aren't expected to play many of their starters in the preseason finale, "although there may be a few exceptions here and there," Frazier said.
"For the most part, we're going to hold some of those guys and let the guys that are fighting for positions get the majority of the play time and see if they can show that they deserve to be part of our final 53," Frazier said. "This is a tense time for a lot of our players as they are trying to make our final roster. For the coaches, (we are) trying to get a good evaluation of our players in this final game."
Because of injuries, the Vikings will be holding out S Mistral Raymond (back), CB Josh Robinson (concussion), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and CB Marcus Sherels (ankle).
With the shortage of healthy players in the secondary and possibly at other positions, Frazier will have some starters available to play only if needed.
"There are a couple guys that we really don't want to play unless there is an emergency that are going to be available. But we're hoping we don't have to put them in the game," he said.
CB Chris Carr (back) and FB Ryan D'Imperio (shoulder) returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out Monday with injuries.
"He felt pretty good," Frazier said. "He woke up this morning and felt pretty good about it, was glad he had a chance to experience a little contact. No worse for the wear. Felt pretty good, so that's encouraging."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.