Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson spent his Monday morning running sprints and catching passes alongside All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
In other words, Simpson's 2013 season is off to a promising start.
“I wanted to work with one of the greats,” Simpson said. “I got an opportunity to come down here and work with him so I wanted to take full advantage of it.”
Simpson and Fitzgerald don’t know each other personally. They share a mutual friend and Fitzgerald extended an invitation for Simpson to join workouts that he hosts at the Gophers football facility. Simpson took part for the first time on Monday.
“I’m trying to pick his brain while I’m here and try and get in the same position that he is,” Simpson said. “He’s a great receiver. When I was in college, I always looked up to him. It’s an honor to be able to train with him.”
Simpson looked healthy running through drills and is hoping to maximize a second chance with the Vikings this season. A three-game suspension and back injury derailed his 2012 season, which he described as “disappointing.”
He finished with only 26 catches for 274 yards and no touchdowns and didn't come close to becoming the vertical threat that the Vikings anticipated after signing him that offseason.
“It was really disappointing,” he said. “I was kind of behind the eight-ball anyway with the suspension. But this year, there’s nothing [hanging] over my head and I’m just happy to be out there and don’t have to worry about anything.”
Especially his back. Simpson suffered a strange injury when he woke up the morning of the Tennessee game in Week 5 and felt numbness in his foot. He didn’t feel normal the rest of the season.
Simpson said he spent most of the offseason getting rest and rehabbing his back and now feels 100 percent with training camp set to begin next week.
“I feel great,” he said. “My body is 100 percent. I’m just ready to go play ball.”
The Vikings signed Simpson to a one-year deal this offseason after trading Percy Harvin to Seattle. Simpson said he never worried that the Vikings didn’t want him back after last season, but he knows he has a lot to prove.
“They’re going to count on me and I’m going to make them proud,” he said. “It’s time for me to prove myself and show my worth. I’m ready to do that.”