Jerome Simpson is gearing up for his third year with the Vikings. His schedule will consist of a 13-game season.
The league upheld the wide receiver's three-game ban Friday for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, stemming from a drunken-driving arrest last season. Simpson's appeal was denied by the league after he missed practice Aug. 18 to plead his case in New York.
The decision was made a day before the Vikings must trim their roster to 53 players from 75 by 3 p.m. Saturday. Simpson will be eligible to return to the team's active roster Sept. 22, a day after its Week 3 matchup against the Saints.
Simpson was arrested Nov. 9 but avoided jail time in January after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree drunken driving. Simpson, 28, was placed on a one-year probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.
It's Simpson's second suspension from the NFL, both served during his tenure with the Vikings. He previously was barred for three games when he first signed with the Vikings in 2012 for a drug arrest in September 2011 while with the Bengals.
The Vikings re-signed Simpson to a one-year deal in the offseason, knowing of the possibility of a suspension, for a third consecutive season.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer found more clarity at middle linebacker Thursday night but wasn't as certain at strong safety.
Jasper Brinkley started at middle linebacker in the Vikings' 19-3 preseason victory over the Titans on Thursday, alongside Audie Cole as an outside linebacker. Cole replaced Brinkley in the second half in the middle, and Brinkley was done for the night.
"I would probably say that Jasper's got the lead, but I haven't made any firm decision yet," Zimmer said.
Zimmer couldn't be as firm at strong safety because rainy weather affected his evaluation. Robert Blanton started at strong safety and played there the entire first half, paired with Kurt Coleman at free safety as starter Harrison Smith sat out. Zimmer said he wanted to evaluate the tape and factor other decisions before making a choice.
"We just have to figure out what's the best fit for this football team, not only on defense but on special teams," Zimmer said.
Getting some work
Defensive end Corey Wootton will enter his fifth season in the NFL, but that didn't exclude him from the preseason finale. In fact, Wootton played 37 snaps on defense, tying him for the second most on the unit.
Wootton brought pressure, as the coaching staff likely wanted to see from the veteran in that type of setting with young players. He sacked rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger in the second quarter, jarring the ball from his hands and recovering the fumble in the process. Wootton had two tackles to conclude his preseason.
"I think I did some good things, but I'm definitely looking to improve," Wootton said. "I'm not going to be satisfied with making a couple of plays here or there. I'm just looking to get better with my hands, my footwork, rush angles, things like that."
Zimmer didn't wear a jacket, although water dripped from the brim of his hat during the preseason finale.
It rained at LP Field for most of the game, which Zimmer was actually glad to see. The Vikings will play outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium over the next two seasons and likely will see inclement weather, especially with snow, at some point this year.
Zimmer opted to stay outdoors for training camp despite pockets of precipitation rolling through Mankato to prepare his team.
"It's important for us not only to get in those situations but understand that we have to be a tough-minded football team, take care of the football like we did and continue to make plays regardless of the weather," Zimmer said.