We just chatted with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after practice, as we usually do every Thursday. As he walked over to meet us, a PR staffer flagged him down and informed him about wide receiver Jerome Simpson’s latest legal issue. Even though the incident happened in July and took place just down the road in Bloomington, Zimmer said it was the first time he had heard about it.
Zimmer said he wouldn’t comment on Simpson until he spoke with General Manager Rick Spielman, but he did say that the Vikings, who are still reeling from the child abuse charge against running back Adrian Peterson, are “going to keep guys who care about football.”
“We’re going to look for high-quality guys,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to keep guys who care about football, guys who are passionate about playing the game. We’re going to continue to get those guys and keep working. There’s really nothing I can do about what everybody else says. All I can do is what I think is best at the time.”
In football-related news, a rarity this week, Zimmer stood by quarterback Matt Cassel, who threw a career-high four interceptions in the loss to the Patriots. Zimmer again pointed out that Cassel played well in the preseason and Week 1 and said “I’m not going to let one bad afternoon ruin it.”
Zimmer also said that outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who missed practice yesterday and today with a broken left hand and a rib injury, “feels a lot better today.” The Vikings will evaluate Greenway tomorrow and go from there. Zimmer added that offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, who participated in practice in some fashion today, is going to be OK. “He’s tough,” Zimmer said.
Finally, Zimmer expressed displeasure that players on both sides of the ball freelanced in the loss to the Patriots. He said it had more to do with the score than it did with Peterson not being active.
“The whole team last week, especially in the second half, we tried to do more than we were supposed to do and it showed up on tape,” Zimmer said. “Guys were trying to do their own thing. So we worked real hard this week on trying to get back to basics and understanding that there’s times where you make plays in the game but the game has to come to you.”
The reason Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer is back this week and not next Monday was the week of sensitivity training that he completed during what became a two-week suspension for using an anti-gay remark during a team setting in 2012.
While some of us probably wouldn’t head into such a training session in the best frame of mind, Priefer told reporters today that he embraced the opportunity to hear what the sensitivity trainer had to teach him.
“The details, we’re going to keep those confidential,” Priefer said. “But I will tell you this: It was real positive. It was very professionally done. And like anything else in life, if you put a lot into it, you’re going to get a lot out of it. I tell my kids that, I tell my players that. So I went into it with a great attitude and I got a lot out of it, quite honestly.”
Priefer was asked if he’s a changed person.
“I don’t know if I’ve changed, but I think I have more awareness of my surroundings and other people around me,” he said. “I think I’m a better man because of it.”
Priefer was allowed to return to the team on Monday. He arrived at 5:30 a.m. ready to go, he said, and happy he no longer has to watch his team on television.
“Both games were hard to watch,” he said. “I was with my family. I think they were watching me, seeing how I was going to react. It’s kind of weird for them, especially my kids. My daughter looked at me and said, `Dad, this is kind of weird,’ seeing me sitting on the couch watching the Vikings. It was hard. It was difficult.”
And what did you say during that punt return in which the Vikings had only nine men on the field?
“I probably can’t say it in public,” he said.
Priefer said he stayed calm and followed his wife’s “lecture” not to throw anything during the game.
“I think I was pretty calm,” he said. “I think the only time I got really excited was when Marcus [Sherels] got hit in the Rams game, because I thought we lost him. He got hit pretty hard.”
Priefer said he was allowed to watch tape of the team’s practices, so he’s been up to speed on how the players have looked between games.
“When I walked in Monday, I just let them know that I appreciated all of their effort while I was gone and it’s all behind us, it’s over,” Priefer said. “The situation is a dead issue and it’s time to move on. I know it was hard for them. I apologized to them because of what I basically put them through being away for two weeks. But now it’s time to improve and get better. We have a lot of work to do.”
Fullback Jerome Felton told reporters that players gave Priefer a standing ovation when he walked into the team meeting on Monday morning.
“It was awesome,” Priefer said. “Normally, I’m there three or four minutes before the meeting starts. I walked in right as the meeting starts because we had just finished up a staff meeting and it was really, really a cool thing. It was something I didn’t expect. It was a warm reception and I really appreciated it.
“I’m an emotional guy and I really did appreciate it. Reflecting back on it, I think that will be one of the great things that’s ever happened to me as a football coach.”
Jerome Simpson, already under a three-game NFL suspension for a DUI arrest last year, is in more trouble.
The Vikings receiver was arrested July 7 on charges of marijuana possession, open bottle and violating a limited drivers license, according to Hennepin County Court records.
He has a Nov. 3 court appearance set.
The team has not issued a comment. Calls to Simpson’s attorney were not immediately returned.
Simpson is serving a three-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, stemming from a drunken-driving arrest last season.
Simpson was arrested Nov. 9 but avoided jail time in January after pleading guilty to careless driving and third-degree drunken driving. Simpson was placed on a one-year probation and ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.
This is Simpson’s second suspension from the NFL. He previously was suspended for three games when he first signed with the Vikings in 2012 related to a drug arrest in September 2011 while he was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Vikings re-signed Simpson to a one-year deal this past offseason, knowing he faced an NFL suspension in his second legal case.
@MasterStrib can Cassel recover from 4 INT’s at home? How far does Zimmer support go after interception comment post game? #VikingsST
— Barry Bolton (@rhinos69) September 18, 2014
If Cassel has another dud performance like he did last week, that support won’t last long. Inconsistency has been an issue throughout Cassel’s career where he’ll single-handedly lose a game for a team. We saw that last season against the Panthers and Bengals. In eight starts with the Vikings, Cassel has three games with multiple interceptions. He has 19 career games where he’s thrown multiple interceptions.
Can he bounce back? Yes he can, especially against this Saints defense that’s allowed the second most points per game (31.5) and third most yards per game (446) through two games. All this performance did was remind fans that Cassel likely won’t start the entire season, and we’ve inched closer to the start of the Teddy Bridgewater era.
@MasterStrib Are the Vikes satisfied with what they’ve got in the backfield or do they go hunting for another RB. #VikingsST
— Sergio Ramshackle (@SergioRamshackl) September 18, 2014
At this point, they have to be. If the Vikings sign a running back, it’ll take weeks to learn the offense and actually become effective in a game. The most intriguing names are LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk, but the Vikings already have a shifty back in rookie Jerick McKinnon.
Again, Matt Asiata did improve this offseason. That won’t translate to the point where Asiata can carry Adrian Peterson’s load. It’ll take all three, including Joe Banyard, to replace Peterson. Even then, and even if the Vikings decide to sign another running back, it still won’t fill Peterson’s massive shoes.
@MasterStrib Will the Vikings fill the open roster spot or wait until Monday for Simpson to be reinstated? #VikingsST
— Brian Rentz (@rentzbj) September 18, 2014
A team never wants to go into a game with a roster spot open, so I’d expect the Vikings to fill that spot by Saturday. It’ll likely be a promotion from the practice squad, which fullback Zach Line is probably the favorite among the 10 players on the practice squad. He was waived so the Vikings could promote Banyard to the active roster as a result of Peterson’s deactivation. Line is back on the team after he signed to the practice squad. If they thought Line was worthy of a 53-man roster spot after preseason, then they’d probably feel the same way two weeks into the season.
As for when Jerome Simpson returns in Week 4, wide receiver Rodney Smith is likely the odd man out next week. He’ll probably sign with the practice squad, however. There will be an open spot if the Vikings promote Line, or someone else on the practice squad, this week. It’s just hard to see the Vikings keep six wide receivers on their roster given they hardly spread four wide receivers under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
@MasterStrib is this whole AP deal a conspiracy theory to force the Vikes to release him so Jerry can get him for pennies? #VikingsST
— Eric Bowe (@theEricBowe) September 18, 2014
Enough with the conspiracy theories. There’s no conspiracy here, just accept it was a mere coincidence those two reports occurred in the same offseason. Will Peterson remain with the Vikings? I don’t know. If he’s released, will he go to the Cowboys? I don’t know. But I do know the conspiracy theory tweets are the dumbest thing to come out of this entire Peterson situation. Enough already.