The Vikings are gearing up for their 2012 regular season opener, but are doing so without one of the players they anticipate being a significant contributor to the offense – wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
Simpson was in the Vikings locker room Wednesday but unable to participate in practice. His three-game suspension has begun for violation of the league's substance abuse policy, stemming from a guilty plea to a felony drug charge in March after police tracked a package mailed to Simpson's Kentucky home that contained two pounds of marijuana. While he can still hang out at Winter Park, there are significant restrictions to what he can do.
"This is the farthest I can come to getting back on the field – the locker room," Simpson said. "(The suspension) started Sunday. I just come in and basically lift weights and take part in meetings."
Thanks to a subtle rules change, Simpson won't be completely banished for three weeks. A distinction was made between a violation of the league's substance abuse policy and the league's steroid policy. It was under the latter policy that Kevin Williams was suspended for two games to start last season, stemming from the StarCaps incident with former Viking Pat Williams. Kevin Williams had to stay away from the team facility due to his suspension. Simpson doesn't have those restrictions, but, while he is enjoying being around his new teammates, it remains very limited.
"It's good to be around the guys," Simpson said. "I can't practice or work with the coaches, but I'm here listening and can still getting a mental picture of everything that's going in the playbook."
By rule, Simpson will have to miss the first three games, meaning he can't be anywhere near his teammates on Sunday. He won't be in the Metrodome. Instead, he'll be at home watching the game on TV like millions of other Vikings fans. Simpson believes that will be the most difficult part of the next three weeks, but is remaining positive and is going to help out his teammates during the week even if he can't be with them on game day.
"Being able to play on the field with them – that's what I'm going to miss most," Simpson said. "But me being able to be here at the facility and working out by myself – I have to work out by myself – but I do get to go to meetings with the guys and watch the film and actually give them suggestions and just help them out and be the best teammate I can be."
So what can Simpson do during the remainder of his suspension? Keeping his mind right and X-ing off each day that passes until he can return to the team Sept. 24.
"It's basically just me counting down the days, just staying positive and focused and staying in shape so I'll be at the top of my game once the Detroit game comes."
With his football career temporarily on hold, Simpson is going to take on a different role with the Vikings – one he doesn't want, but will embrace with his trademark smile and enthusiasm.
"I'll be the biggest cheerleader they could have," Simpson said.
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.
Suspended Simpson turns to cheerleading
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