The NFL has suspended Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson for the first three games of the 2012 season, punishing him for a felony drug conviction tied to a marijuana shipment to his home last fall.
Simpson was suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He was also fined one game check, the league announced Monday, meaning he must forfeit nearly one-fourth of his $800,000 salary this year including the three weeks he won't be paid while being barred from team activities and facilities.
Simpson is allowed to participate in all preseason practices and games, but will miss games against Jacksonville on Sept. 9, at Indianapolis on Sept. 16 and Sept. 24 against San Francisco. ESPN had reported that he would be suspended for three games.
The 26-year-old Simpson left Cincinnati to sign a one-year contract with Minnesota. He acknowledged his pending punishment during interviews, admitting last week "it's kind of frustrating" for him to think about having to sit out his first three games with his new team.
"I won't be out there with my guys playing the game I love, but it's the technicality of my situation," Simpson said.
Authorities said they tracked a shipment of 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana to his Kentucky home in September and that they found another pound of the drug inside the house. Simpson was sentenced to 15 days in jail, three years of probation and 200 hours of community service plus a $7,500 fine and court costs. He previously pleaded guilty a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.
Simpson's potential outweighed any of the off-the-field risks for the Vikings. He had three 100-yard games last year, the same as Minnesota's entire team, and he brings stretch-the-field potential for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. The Vikings sorely lacked someone in their passing game last season with game-changing speed like Simpson's, a skill he has already shown off in spring practices.
The Vikings posted video on their website of an acrobatic catch Simpson made over cornerback Chris Cook last week, and team spokesman Jeff Anderson said Tuesday on Twitter the clip has been viewed more than 50,000 times.
"It was crazy," Ponder said afterward. "He plucked it right off the guy's head. That shows me that I can trust him. I can throw it down field, and he's going to go make a play."
Simpson, a second-round 2008 draft pick out of Coastal Carolina by the Bengals, played sparingly his first three years in the NFL but had a breakout season in 2011 while catching 50 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns.