He's no O.J. Simpson, but Jerome Simpson says the juice is back.
Jerome, the Vikings' big free-agent signing at receiver, hasn't been able to establish himself as a top threat in the offense for a variety of reasons. First was his three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, followed by a nerve issue that caused numbness in his leg and foot. Finally, nine games into the season, Simpson believes he has the nerve situation solved and will have his explosiveness back.
"It really wasn't all the way there (earlier this week), but now, today, I really feel that I have my juice back," Simpson said after Thursday's practice. "In the weeks past it was still bothering me. I was probably like 81, 91 percent. Now I feel like it's back."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that he didn't think Simpson was in pain, but he didn't see the explosiveness he previously had.
When Simpson returned from his three-game suspension to play his first game, against the Detroit Lions, he caught four passes for 50 yards, including a 27-yarder, and drew a pass interference penalty for 31 yards. The following Sunday, he woke up with numbness in his foot and hasn't been the same.
"He's not where he was prior to that injury. He's not. You look at the tape and you know that. He's still able to give us some things, but he's not where he was before the injury for sure," Frazier said Wednesday, a day before Simpson felt he had the issue solved.
"… If you recall, when we did get him back for that Detroit game, that leaping catch, that's like a trademark of his. The leap that he had, I can't remember which preseason game, maybe Buffalo, where a guy comes to tackle him and he leaps over the top of him. It's taken a little bit of his explosiveness away. When that will come back altogether, the doctors can't tell. What he has is still giving us something, but it's not the same Jerome prior to the injury."
Simpson believes his recovery came just as quickly as the injury, and he credits a purchase this week as being a major factor in his sudden recovery.
"I got me a new a new mattress the other day from the Original Mattress Factory. So I slept like a baby (Wednesday) night. And then I did some treatments and we got me a new medication (Thursday) that really helped that our training staff helped me with. And then I've been doing a little acupuncture, too, to help with it," he said.
Simpson thinks the mattress may have been the culprit.
Whatever the cure, if Simpson does have his trademark explosiveness and leaping ability back, it couldn't have come at a more needed time. The Vikings could be without their leading receiver, Percy Harvin, after he sprained his ankle Sunday. Harvin was on crutches Monday and still limping badly Thursday as he slowly walked through the locker room.
Asked if Harvin's injury and his own recovery presented an ideal juncture for Simpson to become a focus of the passing offense, he took the company line.
"I just want to be a team player. Every ball that comes my way, I just want to catch it and help this team win the game," Simpson said.
"One thing I learned about this game, you've got to be patient. That's one thing I'm trying to do is be patient until my number is called and just work with everybody around me."
Quarterback Christian Ponder said Simpson might still be getting used to the offense after spending four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, including a breakout 2011 season when he had 50 catches for 725 yards. There have been a couple passes thrown Simpson's direction this year that indicated quarterback and receiver might not always be on the same page.
"The biggest thing I think people need to realize about Jerome is he spent three or four years in a specific offense (with the Cincinnati Bengals) so he's still growing and still learning this offense," Ponder said. "We're seeing that he is getting better every week and we're looking for him. He had a great game against Detroit last time so we want him in that same position this week."
The Vikings' last game against Detroit was the highlight of Simpson's season to date. It was his first game back from suspension and his four catches in that game represent half of his receptions this season. His 50 yards on Sept. 30 represent nearly half of his receiving yards (109) for 2012, as well.
For the season, he has been targeted 18 times and caught eight of them for a 13.6-yard average.
Frazier said the injury affected Simpson's ability to really open his sprints and be precise with his cuts during routes. But after Thursday's practice, Simpson was hopeful the injury was in the past.
"It was just kind of like nerves going down my legs. It was just something that it could come back to me like it has today. I think it has and I don't think I'll have a problem anymore," he said.
"I'm back. I've got my juice back."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Simpson: ‘I have my juice back'
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