By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — 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 offense’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 misdemeanor, and fourth-degree DWI for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor.
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.
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 odor 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.
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 first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson sparingly this season, in part because he’s a raw rookie still learning the offense and also because of Simpson’s success over the first half of the season.
Here’s their opportunity to increase Patterson’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.”
NOTES: QB Christian Ponder took part in a limited amount of practice, working his way back from a dislocated non-throwing left shoulder. If Ponder can’t play against the Seahawks, Frazier said, Josh Freeman would start. ... Despite a strong performance against Washington at the nose tackle position, with 2½ sacks, Kevin Williams will remain in his regular under tackle spot this week, though Frazier said the Vikings would probably put Williams at the nose for “a few snaps.” Letroy Guion is expected to return to the starting lineup there, after missing the last game because of chest and knee injuries.