Jerome Simpson is trying to put the spotty season that was 2012 behind him.
After a three-game suspension for felony drug possession and an injury that came shortly after his return to action, Simpson never did become a consistent receiver for the Vikings. He finished with only 26 receptions for 264 yards.
This year, Simpson is back to full health and hoping to kick-start a career that was sidetracked.
"He does look like he is moving better," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "(After his injury), it was really a challenge for him to get up to full speed and he looks to be full speed this summer."
Simpson had a solid session during full-team work Tuesday afternoon when he hauled in a couple of big Christian Ponder passes when it counted in the two-minute portion of practice.
The first was a 20-yard out that picked up a first down and the second was a 20-yard crossing pattern in the middle of the field that converted fourth down.
"I have to be in the right spot and Christian, he throws a good ball and he's just throwing to a spot and I want to be in that spot to receive that ball," Simpson said.
"We had a good rhythm at the end of training camp last year, but I had those three games off and that kind of messed up the rhythm. I came back that Detroit game and we were pretty good on rhythm then, and then I had that injury and that threw things off for me because I couldn't maneuver like I used to."
That athleticism has returned. Even when it's not a big grab at training camp to catch the attention of the crowd, he impressed them with a huge leap over would-be tacklers following a mid-range reception.
There is little doubting his natural skills, but he hasn't found consistency and knows he can be much more productive if a healthy and focused season converge.
He gave a taste of the possibilities in 2011, when he caught 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in his final season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I can be as great as I want to. I've just got to go out there and focus and make plays and just help this team win," he said. "I don't really like to make predictions, but I just want to have a great year and prove that they can give me a long-term contract here."
During last year's offseason, Vikings coaches and general manager Rick Spielman were impressed with the possibilities Simpson brought to Minnesota. He showed rare athleticism and made several highlight catches, both at offseason practices at the Vikings' training facility and at training camp in Mankato.
"He looks like the Jerome we had a year ago at this time," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "We are seeing a guy right now that I think can help our football team and really make a difference for us in the passing game. He's having a very, very good camp, his attitude has been great. It's been great watching him get in and out of routes in the passing game and we are expecting big things out of him this year. We just need to keep him on the field and keep him healthy."
He also showed how emotional he can be.
Not long after making those two 20-yard catches in the two-minute drill, he caught a pass behind linebacker Chad Greenway and took offense at Greenway's hit. Simpson popped back at Greenway and started to throw a mix of shoves and half-hearted punches at the linebacker, who held Simpson at arm's length before the receiver tried to head butt Greenway with helmets on.
"Me and him, we're good buddies. We just always go at it. It's just the competitive nature in us," Simpson said. "We were just talking. It wasn't nothing too serious. It was just us going back and forth. After that, we laughed and chopped it up."
"Everybody knows it's nothing personal. It's just spur of the moment."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Simpson knows his keys for success
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