Jerome Simpson ran what started out as a routine crossing pattern as a Cincinnati Bengals receiver during a Week 16 game in 2011.
When it was over, one of the broadcasters said, “We’ll be seeing that one for the rest of today, and into tomorrow and the entire week.”
Try two years later.
Even if he wanted to, Simpson couldn’t forget how the play ended — an acrobatic somersault into the end zone over a Cardinals defender, a feat Simpson said was unintended.
“It’s something I hear every week from fans and everything: ‘You going to do a flip for us this year?’ ” said Simpson, a Viking the past two seasons. “I always tell everyone that’s something that just kind of happens. You never can plan anything like that.”
Tuesday will mark the second anniversary of Simpson’s claim to fame, and he returns to the scene of that unexpected leap, Paul Brown Stadium, on Sunday. Simpson’s life, like the flip, has gone off-script with his current season mirroring 2011, on and off the field.
The 27-year-old Simpson, who has 44 catches for 689 yards, was charged with two counts of drunken driving after an early-morning arrest on Interstate 394 last month. His four-year stint with the Bengals had ended in legal trouble after the 2011 season because of a felony drug charge from that fall.
“You’re just disappointed that those things occur and you want him to always understand how important his career has to be,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, whom Simpson considered a father figure.
Lewis said he was one of Simpson’s biggest supporters during his stay in Cincinnati, where he played behind receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson.
Lewis still thinks Simpson’s 19-yard front-flip touchdown against the Cardinals was one of the most impressive things he’s seen.
“That’s the same thing a family member would say that they’re disappointed in me, but they still just want me to learn from it and they got my back,” Simpson said of Lewis’ comments.
It was difficult for Simpson to leave the Bengals because of a support system led by Lewis, who has been known to sign players labeled with character issues, but since then, Simpson has signed one-year contracts with the Vikings for consecutive seasons.
Simpson said he’s going through counseling and trying to change his habits. He declined to go into details about why he decided to seek counseling and what habits he is trying to break, but he emphasized repeatedly that there are things in his life he needs to remove.
“That’s something that I’m not going to do in my life anymore because it’s caused me trouble and there’s something telling me that I don’t need that in my life anymore,” Simpson said. “I know that. I realize that. It’s something where I have a story now to just tell people that I’ve been through it all.”
With Minnesota, Simpson was suspended for the first three games of his tenure in 2012 as a result of his guilty plea the previous April to a reduced charge in the drug case.
After the suspension, Simpson’s first season with the Vikings didn’t get any better. He finished with 26 catches for 274 yards and was bothered by leg weakness caused by a back injury.
With two games remaining this season, Simpson’s numbers are comparable to 2011, when he had career highs with 50 catches and 725 yards.
Just like that season, however, he has a legal case looming over his head, plus the uncertainty of where he’ll play next season.
“It’s frustrating, because I know what I went through to build myself back up,” Simpson said. “But I’m just going to keep working hard. The upper power, he has a plan for me, and everything will work out.”
Simpson said the unplanned front flip has been a blessing in disguise because it made him a recognizable figure in the NFL.
And he is excited to return to “The Jungle,” Paul Brown Stadium, for another Week 16 game.
All that’s missing is a 10-point landing in the end zone.
“It was just a great experience to do it in that black and orange, and, hopefully,” Simpson said, “I can make plays in the purple like that.”