Hartman: Vikings' Simpson copes with drug testing

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:05 PM

The Vikings wide receiver, still on probation following a 2012 drug arrest, put together his best game Sunday.

Without a doubt, the one shining light in the Vikings’ 34-24 loss to the Lions on Sunday was the performance of wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who caught seven passes for 140 yards and proved he can perform a lot better than he did last season when he was hampered because of a back injury and caught 26 passes for 274 yards.

Simpson had a great training camp and the result of how hard he worked showed up in the opening game with the Lions.

When Simpson signed with the Vikings in April 2012, he was dealing with the repercussions of a three-game NFL suspension stemming from a drug arrest and was in the first year of three years’ probation, ordered by a Kentucky judge.

Simpson talked about what that process entails.

“It is like every week, every week I have to do drug testing,” he said. “Just being on probation and having to check in with your probation officer every month. It’s a process that you kind of take for granted … being a person that’s free. Now I’ve had some of my freedom taken away from me, it’s not a good experience. … It’s just something that I have to do for them to keep tabs on me.”

Still, Simpson has been nothing but a positive influence since joining the Vikings, and he clearly hasn’t allowed the increased restrictions on his life affect his ability to become a better player. He also added that on top of his court-ordered drug testing, there’s NFL testing for all kinds of substance abuse.

“The NFL tests a lot, too, so it’s a rigorous process, but it’s something that I have to go through and get past,” he said.

Simpson said it was tough for him when he left the Bengals and signed as a free agent with the Vikings.

“But I knew this would be a better environment for me and a new change,” he said. “Cincinnati was very good to me for four years there. They kept me on board and gave me a chance and I was blessed to have the opportunity to play there. This team works hard, and I like that about them.”

Simpson is also a booster of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder: “He’s great. I love his personality, his attitude towards the game. He just wants to work and be the best quarterback he can. I really appreciate that out of him.”

A lot of the offseason attention on wide receivers focused on newcomers Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, but maybe a healthy Simpson can be just as big a weapon for the Vikings.

Mauer plans to catch

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was asked about media speculation about Joe Mauer becoming a full-time first baseman now that Justin Morneau has been traded to Pittsburgh.

“I don’t know that there has been talk [by the team about] having him play first base,” Ryan said. “It might be where we get him back in the lineup and take it easy on him until he is ready to get behind the plate.”

Mauer played in 113 of the Twins’ first 123 games before being placed on the seven-day disabled list after suffering concussion-like symptoms from a foul tip off his catcher’s mask. Now Mauer has missed 20 consecutive games and it’s still uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup.

“I think Joe has stated publicly that he wants to catch,” Ryan said, “and as soon as he’s healthy and we activate him off that concussion DL, he might DH a little, might play first, and he probably will catch. We just have to get him healthy and we’ll go from there.”

Mauer has been quoted on several occasions that he wants to be a full-time catcher. What would happen if he continues to take this stand?

“I believe that would be accurate [that Mauer will continue to catch],” Ryan said.

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