EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- At only 2-7 and with a visit to the tough, 9-1 Seattle Seahawks Sunday next on the schedule, the Minnesota Vikings need all the help they can get.
But, fresh off their 34-27 victory over the Redskins last Thursday, the Vikings woke up Saturday morning to the news that wide receiver Jerome Simpson, a starter and their leader in receiving yards, had been arrested for suspicion of DWI in downtown Minneapolis. Simpson was then charged with two counts on Wednesday.
Not exactly the news coach Leslie Frazier was expecting from a guy the team gave a second chance to before the 2011 season. Simpson came to the Vikings from Cincinnati, where he was convicted of a felony drug charge for possessing marijuana. Simpson originally was indicted on a drug-trafficking charge, but pled to a lesser felony.
"It's very disappointing," Frazier said. "Anytime something negative happens that creates a negative light on our organization, on our team, it's a concerning matter. This case, it's very disappointing. But it happens and you have to be able to adjust and deal with it, and not let it set you back as a team or an organization. But without question it's disappointing."
The Vikings reached out to him because they were desperate for a receiver, supposedly convinced he would change and were willing to overlook the fact that he'd start the 2012 season by serving a three-game league-imposed suspension. Simpson was signed to a one-year deal, but had a disappointing, injury-plagued season.
Still needing depth at receiver heading into this season, the Vikings took yet another chance on Simpson and signed him to another one-year deal. Simpson responded by having a solid start to the season. He's second on the team in receptions (33), first in average per catch (14.9) and first in yards (491).
Simpson apologized. Sort of.
"I sincerely apologize for the attention that I have brought to the fans, community and myself," he said.
Simpson, whose first court date is Dec. 11, faces further punishment from the league and the legal system since he was still on probation from his felony drug conviction. Meanwhile, the Vikings are in close contact with the league this week, asking what they can and can't do with regard to their own punishment of Simpson.
Frazier said Wednesday that Simpson is expected to play on Sunday. Asked if Simpson would remain his starter at the X position, Frazier hesitated and indicated that the team is preparing rookie first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson to start ahead of Simpson.
The team has been looking for ways to get Patterson on the field more. He leads the NFL in kickoff returns with a 35.2-yard average and two touchdowns, including an NFL-record 109-yarder. But as a receiver, he has only 18 catches and hasn't played more than 39.6 percent of the offensive snaps in any one game.
"We intended to continue to get him more reps, and you saw it in the Washington game and the prior one, trying to get him more reps," Frazier said. "That was a part of the plan anyway, and it definitely will be a part of the plan now, with some of the concerns that we have (with Simpson)."
In one fateful wrong decision, Simpson may have changed his future - at least with the Vikings - forever.
Except for running back Adrian Peterson, who will be relied on heavily at Seattle to control the clock and the game, Patterson is the Vikings' best playmaker. If he has a big game, Simpson may never start another game for the Vikings.