EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When Jerome Simpson signed with the Minnesota Vikings before the 2012 season, the team knew it would be waiting a while before seeing if the former Cincinnati Bengals receiver could jolt their passing game; he was facing a three-game suspension for a 2011 drug-related arrest, so Simpson wasn't going to play any more than 13 games on his first one-year with the team.
In many ways, though, the Vikings were still waiting for an impact from Simpson when they gave him another one-year deal this spring; he was limited by a mysterious leg injury last season, and caught just 26 passes for 274 yards, with none of them going for a touchdown. But as he returns to Cincinnati this weekend to face his old team, Simpson is on track for what could turn out to be his best year in the NFL.
He's got 44 catches for 689 yards and a touchdown, and has a strong chance to eclipse career highs for catches (50) and yards (725), both set in his final season with the Bengals. Simpson has become the Vikings' third receiver behind Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, and his future with the team could once again be in doubt, with more NFL discipline possibly coming after Simpson's DWI arrest in November. But on the field, at least, he's shown he brings value to the Vikings.
"To see him bounce back this season and have the type of impact he's had has really been good for Jerome," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It helped us to kind of bring Cordarrelle along the way we needed to. So he has been a real plus; he has made a lot of big plays for us this season. He is really, really trying to do the right things."
Frazier seems to take a special interest in helping players who have run into off-field troubles, like Simpson has, and the Vikings had enough questions at receiver after last season that it made sense for them to bring Simpson back. Time will tell if the same will hold true after this season; as much as Patterson looks like a star in the making, he still has some things to figure out at receiver, and Simpson might have a niche as a dangerous No. 3 receiver.
At the very least, he's enjoying a nice rebound season on the field after struggling last year, and he can take pride in that as he returns to Cincinnati.
"(It was) just a great organization to play for. I love the Browns (the family that owns the Bengals)," Simpson said. "They stuck by me for my years there, showed me a lot of love and support. It's just going to be fun times to go back and play in 'The Jungle.'"