Jerome Simpson showed up for the Vikings' offseason condition program and declared himself 100 percent. That's the first time in about six months he could say that.
After spending the first three games of 2012 on the suspended list for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, Simpson made it only one full game before a back injury sapped the productivity and explosiveness from the speedy receiver when he woke up with apparent nerve damage in his back.
"It was just one of those freak things – L5 lower back. I guess the nerve, it just pinched a nerve," Simpson said after declaring himself 100 percent following a recent workout. "It was nothing that we could find really conclusive about it, the reason that caused it or whatever. I don't know. I can't really put my finger on it."
That injury became a source of mystery and frustration. At one point, he felt he was getting better, saying he was getting his "juice" back, but the productivity still wasn't there until the final three games of the season.
Even then, he wasn't stretching the field like he showed he was capable of in pre-injury practices. In the final three games of the regular season, he was targeted a combined 17 times by quarterback Christian Ponder, the first time in 2012 that he was targeted more than four times in consecutive games. It still wasn't anywhere close to what Simpson could produce, but he had a combined 11 catches for 98 yards in his final three games, giving him a chance to return to the Vikings in 2013 on another one-year contract.
"It was more my push-off. I didn't really have my burst to be able to get away from the defenders like I needed to," he said.
"It started to come back during December and throughout the offseason, being able to rest and strengthen it. It's back to 100 percent now and I feel great."
Simpson didn't have any surgery or big rehabilitation program to follow after the season. The prescription was simple: rest.
"That's what they told me, just to rest – don't do anything, don't play any basketball or do anything physical. Just basically rest, and it was kind of hard for me to do that. I followed doctors' orders and I came back good," he said.
Being an active athlete, Simpson said he "hated" that advice, but he stayed relatively inactive for about six weeks.
"Basically, I just played with my dogs and just visited family. Just really got to spend good family time," he said.
He maintains that getting a new Tempur-Pedic mattress during the season helped with stabilizing his back and helping him maintain good posture when sleeping.
Despite the Vikings signing veteran Greg Jennings to a five-year, $45 million contract and trading four draft picks to move back into the first round and draft Cordarrelle Patterson, Simpson is angling for a better season to set himself up for a long-term contract.
"I want to be the best I can for these guys because I felt like I let myself down and them down a little bit last year," Simpson said. "It was something I couldn't really control. I'm going to go my hardest I can this year and hopefully I can get a long-term contract this year."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Simpson ‘back to 100 percent'
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