Simpson hoping to re-focus, re-sign

Jerome Simpson (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today)

Jerome Simpson had a frustrating 2012 season and is hoping his health and athleticism return. He's also hoping that happens in Minnesota after completing a one-year deal, and it sounds like GM Rick Spielman believes that's a possibility. Will ‘the dog come out' and see Simpson ‘really thrive?'

Jerome Simpson knows there were issues he had during his first season as a Viking – some physical, some emotional. He's just hoping he gets another chance to turn potential into production.

Simpson started the season with a three-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, then had a nerve issue in his back that flared up and caused a loss of feeling and strength in his foot. In a year that started with him signing a one-year prove it contract, Simpson is hoping he proved enough to at least garner another chance with the Vikings.

"I hope I did. I definitely love being here in Minnesota and playing for the Vikings and this coaching staff," Simpson said after the team's playoff loss. "I definitely want to be back here. I guess we'll just play those cards out when they're dealt. I feel like there's a lot of potential in this team and I just love being around these guys and my coaching staff because I feel like they believe in me."

Simpson was supposed to offer the Vikings a deep threat that only he, Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright could really provide, but he never got going once his back injury flared up. He finished with 26 receptions for 274 yards, both of those marks fifth on the team. Simpson was targeted a team-high six times in the playoff loss at Green Bay, but Joe Webb's struggles didn't help any of the receiver's production that evening.

Late in the season, however, Simpson started to provide a glimpse of his potential. He was targeted 17 times in the final three games of the regular season, making 12 catches for 98 yards – all three of those numbers tops on the team.

"I felt like I was involved. Still wish I could have made more plays, but sometimes that's just the luck of the draw," he said.

"Later in the season, I started to get my groove back and my leg got back up under me. I just felt more comfortable just playing."

Simpson is scheduled to be a free agent in March, but quarterback Christian Ponder is among those hoping to get another shot working with him.

"He brought a lot to this team. I think he's a very athletic guy. I think he's a guy that's able to stretch the field," Ponder said. "He's a guy that I think people need to realize it's his first year (in Minnesota). He was with one team (the Cincinnati Bengals) for so many years – it's hard to change to a new team and learn a new offense, be around new guys. He's a guy that I hope we keep on the roster and continue to develop and build a relationship on the field and off the
field. He's a great guy. He loves the game. He's fun to be around. I think everyone sees how much fun he has.

"We saw the potential he had, some of the potential that he had – in the Green Bay and the Houston game he had good games. He can continue to be great. I think he can be a great player, and it'd be nice to see him in a Vikings uniform this coming year."

Simpson started showing his potential in offseason workouts when he was making acrobatic catches, but once the back flared up it sapped him of his burst and ability to push off like he was used to.

Simpson thought he might have the problem licked in early November when he got a new mattress and switched up his medications. That proved to only be a temporary fix, he admitted after the season.

"There was still issues (in November). It wasn't as bad as it was, but it just got better and better these last probably like five games. I just felt like I had my push-off and my speed and everything," he said.

He won't need surgery on his back, he said.

"It was just rest. You see how it progressed and it didn't give me any issues the rest of the year. I think it was just something that flared up and it was just freak," he said.

Simpson said after the season that there weren't any talks about a contract extension. General manager Rick Spielman called Simpson's back injury "significant" and sounded like it will factor into the analysis of free-agent players that is starting in earnest this week at the Vikings' Winter Park headquarters.

"I think Jerome, if we're able to look at potentially doing something with him, that he has the potential to really thrive if we were able to get something done with him," Spielman said.

As it turned out, Simpson's one-year, prove-it contract proved very little. The potential is still there, but the production was hindered for a number of reasons.

Now he is left to hope that another offer will be forthcoming and he has the opportunity to show what he was unable to in 2012.

There are two things he wants to improve upon – being more consistent catching the ball and not being too hard on himself when he makes a mistake.

"The coaches, they already knew what I could do because they've seen it in practice every day. It's just myself. I've beaten myself up and just moving onto the next play, that's probably one thing they want me to do and I've been doing these last four games," he said. "If something happens, just move onto the next play and keep playing and let the dog come out of you."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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