The Minnesota Vikings plan to play Jerome Simpson against Seattle this weekend, despite drunken-driving charges facing the wide receiver.
As for Simpson's spot in the starting lineup and on most of the offence's skill-position-player groupings, well, that's another story.
"I don't know how we'll handle that part of it. I do expect him to play. We'll make a decision on that part of it as we go forward," coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday, shortly after Simpson was charged with third-degree DWI for refusing to submit to a chemical test, a gross misdemeanour, and fourth-degree DWI for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanour.
Simpson said after practice he rotated with Cordarrelle Patterson at his position during team drills, but that's standard practice. Simpson said he couldn't comment on the charges.
Frazier said he was told to expect Simpson to be able to play Sunday at Seattle. The Vikings are limited by the collective bargaining agreement in the discipline they can levy, with the NFL's substance-abuse policy holding sway over the situation.
Simpson has a prior violation of the policy, for a felony drug charge from a 2011 incident involving a major marijuana shipment found at his home that led to a 15-day jail sentence and three years of probation in Kentucky and a three-game suspension last year from the league. The NFL began reviewing his case after his arrest early Saturday in Minneapolis. Spokesman Randall Liu said the league had nothing new to report Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint in Hennepin County court, Simpson's Dodge Challenger was stalled on the right shoulder of a Minneapolis area highway. When a state trooper approached at 4:28 a.m., Simpson exited the vehicle and said he believed the car's rear axle was broken. The trooper detected a strong odour of alcohol and observed bloodshot and watery eyes.
Simpson denied drinking, but he failed three field sobriety tests and registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.095 with a preliminary breath test, police said. The legal limit in Minnesota is 0.08.
After being arrested and taken to the county jail, Simpson refused a breath test on what he said was the advice of his counsel.
Top receiver in Minnesota
Simpson leads the Vikings with 491 yards receiving.
"Any time something negative happens that creates a negative light on our organization, on our team, it's a concerning matter," Frazier said. "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."
The Vikings have used Patterson sparingly this season, in part because he's a raw rookie still learning the offence and also because of Simpson's success over the first half of the season.
Here's their opportunity to increase the first-round draft pick's playing time.
"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."
Patterson has two kickoff returns for scores this year. In the 34-27 victory over the Redskins last Thursday, Patterson had his first career touchdown reception. He has 18 catches for 168 yards.
"Run after the catch shows up with Cordarrelle. Jerome's been having a terrific season for us: made some tough catches, run very good routes," Frazier said. "But the one thing that sticks out with Cordarrelle and you see it on kickoff returns: his ability with the ball in his hands. He's a hard guy to tackle, can make people miss and can run away from you. Those are playmaking qualities that you look."
Patterson shrugged off the potential excitement of increased action.
"I'm just trying to get better. ... Just being a better player for my teammates," he said.