Holler: Carter's tale a lesson for Simpson

Cris Carter came to the Vikings with a drug problem and turned his life around. Jerome Simpson has put his career ascension in jeopardy with similar issues, but he could look to Carter as an example how to right life's ship.

It seemed a bit ironic that the current problems plaguing Jerome Simpson have come to light at the same time NFL Network premiered its "A Football Life" segment on Cris Carter.

At the moment, Simpson's future with the Vikings and perhaps the NFL is in limbo. While a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, Simpson was arrested for having 2.5 pounds of marijuana mailed to his home. Saturday morning, he was arrested on suspicion of DWI. In the State of Minnesota, refusal to take a blood-alcohol test upon being pulled over is viewed as a failure of the test and carries with it the same penalties as if someone had submitted to the BAC test and it came back at .08 or above – the limit in Minnesota.

Marijuana and alcohol are viewed by the NFL as separate but equal offenses. Had marijuana been discovered in his vehicle, then he would have moved to the next step of the league's substance abuse policy. However, his previous conviction will be taken into consideration by the league when considering discipline and it could move his punishment from a fine at a maximum of $50,000 to a more costly suspension. Where he stands with the Vikings organization might be another story.

In some ways, the Simpson situation is mildly similar to what Carter went through. For those who haven't seen the NFL Network documentary, it doesn't sugarcoat Carter's early pre-Vikings years. What it showed wasn't pretty.

Carter was a consensus All-American at Ohio State as a junior but was suspended the following year for marijuana use and signing on with an agent while still in college. More troubling, he was charged with lying to a grand jury, which is very serious offense and can lead to a significant jail term.

Viewed as a first-round pick prior to his senior year, after running afoul of the law, he wasn't taken until the fourth round of the supplemental draft – nobody put in an offer of a first-, second- or third-round pick – and he went to the Eagles.

Things got worse there. He described flunking "another drug test," this time for cocaine, and head coach Buddy Ryan had seen enough. Carter was a popular player and Ryan felt he was the Pied Piper leading young teammates to the party scene Carter was deeply involved in. When he was cut, he was newly married with his first child on the way and his wife admitted she was married to "a drug addict."

Fortunately for Carter, he was claimed for $100 by the Vikings and one of the Gang of Ten owners – Wheelock Whitney – was ahead of the curve in having a program in place for players with substance abuse problems. Carter got the cure and his life turned around from that point.

For those who haven't seen the documentary, it comes highly recommended and is available in pieces at the NFL's official website. It shows a player who was on the brink of ruining a professional career. Even by the admission of those closest to him, he was an arrogant diva who had got by purely on physical talent, but his off-field issues got in the way of his immense talent. The documentary doesn't hold back punches. It is one of the reasons Carter is a regular speaker at the annual Rookie Symposium that warns new NFL players about the trappings of being 21 with a lot of money in their pockets.

While Simpson's arrest for drunk driving might not be a career killer, some organizations (perhaps the Vikings) view it as a second strike.

Carter is a life lesson as to what can happen when a player decides to commit himself to his chosen profession – in this case, a profession that is hard to get into and easy to get out of. Maybe Simpson can make a similar commitment to putting his focus on the field and not putting himself in risky situations when it's not necessary.

Carter was a cautionary tale when he came to Minnesota. Now he's a Hall of Famer. It can be done.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

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