Jerome Simpson apologized to his team and Vikings fans following his weekend drunken driving arrest, and the wide receiver said he expects to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
However, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier declined to say definitively whether Simpson will be available. Frazier acknowledged that Simpson’s guilty plea to a felony drug charge in Kentucky before Simpson joined the Vikings will “definitely factor in to what happens going forward” in terms of a possible additional punishment by the NFL and/or team.
“We’ll have further clarification as we learn more from the league as well as what we’re going to do internally,” Frazier said. “But from my standpoint there isn’t a whole lot more that I can add regarding his situation as we are continuing to gather more information.”
The Vikings returned to work Monday after a three-day break following their 34-27 victory against the Washington Redskins on Thursday. Simpson addressed reporters for about two minutes after a short practice.
“I sincerely apologize for the attention that I have brought to the fans, our community and myself,” he said.
Simpson was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of drunken driving after a state trooper responded to a stalled car blocking lanes on Interstate 394 out of downtown Minneapolis. According to a patrol spokesman, Simpson had slurred speech and watery eyes and failed a field sobriety test.
Simpson refused a breath test at the Hennepin County jail. He was released Saturday around 1 p.m. after posting a $12,000 bond, pending a formal charging decision by prosecutors.
Frazier said he met with Simpson at Winter Park later Saturday afternoon.
“It’s always disappointing when there’s negative light brought to our organization of any kind,” Frazier said. “It’s unfortunate when this happens. You have to deal with it, but’s definitely unfortunate.”
Simpson could face another suspension based on his previous legal troubles. He was suspended by the NFL for the first three games last season as punishment stemming from his 2011 drug arrest. Originally indicted on a felony drug-trafficking charge, Simpson later pleaded guilty to a lesser felony charge of “being involved in a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.’’
He was sentenced to 15 days in jail and placed on three years of probation. It’s unclear how his latest arrest might affect his probation status.
Asked if he expects to be suspended by the NFL, Simpson said, “Unfortunately, I cannot comment about that at this time.”
Frazier said the team routinely talks with his players about making responsible decisions once they leave Winter Park. Frazier said he shared that message again when he addressed his players Monday morning.
“We talk about it, but ultimately it comes back to every individual making good decisions, good choices,” Frazier said.
Simpson leads the Vikings in receiving yards (491) and is second in catches (33). If he’s forced to serve a suspension, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson would take his starting job.
Patterson caught his first career TD pass and played a season-high 39.6 percent of the offensive snaps against Washington. The coaching staff has brought Patterson along slowly, but his role would change significantly if Simpson is suspended.
“He’d have to be because he’s the guy we would be counting on to take more snaps,” Frazier said. “It’s not how we would have planned it, but he would have to be ready to take more snaps and contribute both on special teams as well as what we’d ask him to do on offense.”