Jerome Simpson (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)
Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson returned to practice Wednesday and his speed was immediately evident. See what Christian Ponder and Leslie Frazier had to say about the offensive addition. Plus, injury updates and other news from a Wednesday at Winter Park.
Jerome Simpson’s return to Minnesota Vikings practice Wednesday after serving a three-game suspension brought some changes to the routine.
Simpson’s burst was immediately apparent. Despite quarterback Christian Ponder saying he didn’t think it would take long for the timing between him and Ponder to come together – “it’s only been a month-and-a-half, it’s not like it’s been five years,” he said – he underthrew Simpson on one deep pass and a few connections later Simpson had to stutter-step to allow the ball to catch up to him during individual drills.
Still, there is no doubt Simpson’s speed will be a welcome return to the Vikings’ passing game, and he said he later caught a 60-yard pass from Ponder during team drills that are closed to the media.
“It was just getting back used to my speed and just how I run my routes and everything,” Simpson said. “Just a little rusty, but during practice we made some connections. We got a good go-ball early in practice that we connected on so it was a good feeling.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said they plan to use Simpson “quite a bit” in his first action as a Viking after a receiving a three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy last year as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“He’s fired up. He’s chomping at the bit, as you can imagine,” Frazier said. “He’s extremely excited about being able to now be practicing with his teammates.”
Ponder has the second-highest completion percentage in the NFL at 70.1 and the fifth-best passer rating at 104.9, but his 6.16-yard average length of pass is the shortest among the top-10 rated quarterbacks.
While Simpson’s speed will be a welcomed addition, Ponder, who still hasn’t thrown an interception this year, cautioned that he will continue to go where the defense allows.
“We’re not going to try to force things. We’re going to use Jerome to get downfield and obviously he’s got the speed to do it. (We’ll) try to do some things to get the ball downfield,” Ponder said. “We want to make big plays, but we’re not going to force them.”
The Vikings will have to make a roster move by 3 p.m. Thursday in order to make room for Simpson. They have a roster exemption until then, but Frazier indicated the team wanted to make sure it didn’t suffer any injuries in practice before releasing a player.
TE Kyle Rudolph (thigh), LB Erin Henderson (concussion) and S Mistral Raymond (ankle) weren’t practicing for the Vikings on Wednesday. DE Jared Allen (neck) was limited, along with DE D’Aundre Reed (calf) and S Andrew Sendejo (ankle). LB Marvin Mitchell (ankle) was a full participant.
Frazier said Raymond saw a specialist who confirmed that he won’t need surgery on his ankle.
The Lions had several starters that weren’t practicing Wednesday, according to reports out of Detroit, including QB Matthew Stafford (hip), S Louis Delmas (knee), DT Corey Williams (knee), TE Tony Scheffler (calf) and WR Titus Young (knee). Backup LB Travis Lewis (quad) also missed practice. Several Lions were also limited: LB Justin Durant (back), DE Lawrence Jackson (calf), WR Calvin Johnson (ankle), RB Mikel Leshoure (groin) and G Rob Sims (knee).
Frazier said the Vikings would prepare as if Stafford will play but watch tape of former Viking Shaun Hill, who would get the start in place of Stafford.
After having 11 penalties against the Indianapolis Colts, the Vikings had only one vs. San Francisco. “One! Say it loud!” Frazier said with a big smile on his face. “We’re going to try to work to get it to zero this week. That’s our goal.”
After sitting out a few plays Sunday because of neck spasms, Jared Allen returned to the game and played left end instead of right end for a few plays. Asked if that was because of Allen’s neck injury or a schematic ploy, Frazier said: “I’m almost reluctant to answer that one. I would like for the opposing team to say, ‘Oh, they’re moving Jared Allen around so we can’t just block him on the right,’ so that’s what I’m going to do – leave it open-ended. Speculate.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.