EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Jerome Simpson has enjoyed strong support from the Minnesota Vikings since they signed the speedy, risky wide receiver this spring.
He's eager to begin paying them back.
Simpson will make his debut on Sunday at Detroit, having served his NFL-issued three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, stemming from an offseason felony drug conviction tied to a marijuana shipment to his home. He served 15 days in jail.
"Hopefully, me just being fresh, I can just be that little extra spark that we need," Simpson said.
Simpson had a breakout season with 725 yards receiving and four touchdowns for Cincinnati last year, but he barely cracked the lineup with the Bengals his first three seasons. So with an unproven record of performance and the legal trouble he carried, demand on the free-agent market was minimal. The Vikings, though, have been missing that true downfield threat to stretch the defense since Randy Moss was traded in 2005. So signing Simpson to a one-year contract, once they checked out his background and were satisfied with what they heard from his character references, was the quintessential low-risk, high-reward move.
"Just for him to be back out there and to see how he adds to this offense, I'm excited. Especially seeing what he did in the preseason," said running back Adrian Peterson, referring to the track-like hurdle Simpson used to clear a defender during a 33-yard gain in an exhibition game against Buffalo.
Though Simpson will help take some coverage away from do-it-all wide receiver Percy Harvin and give quarterback Christian Ponder someone to throw long to, Peterson ought to benefit the most by Simpson's presence. Because if Simpson can beat man-to-man coverage and scare opposing teams into assigning a safety to help, Peterson should have more room near the line of scrimmage to run.
"Now you have two explosive, dynamic receivers on the field at the same time," wide receivers coach George Stewart said. "Probably the first time since I've been here."
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