Notebook: Vikings vetted Jerome Simpson's past; trade in Rounds 2, 3?
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The Minnesota Vikings did plenty of digging into Jerome Simpson's checkered past before hosting the athletic free-agent receiver for a visit this weekend.
"I'm not going to go into whether we're going to sign him or not," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told 1500 ESPN on Sunday morning.
"We're in that process right now of just going through the discussion and how we feel. But I can tell you -- not just in his case, any case -- if there's a guy that has a character concern, we're going to do everything we can to turn every stone over. You wouldn't believe how deep we went into the calls to different people that aren't even involved with football to make sure that we felt very comfortable bringing him in here for this visit."
Simpson, 26, met with Vikings officials on Saturday and left on Sunday morning without a contract. He has drawn interest from at least one other team but remains on the market nearly six weeks after free agency opened, despite posting career highs last season with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Vikings no doubt asked Simpson plenty of questions about the circumstances surrounding his September arrest on a felony drug charge resulting from about 2 pounds of marijuana being shipped to his northern Kentucky home.
Simpson pleaded guilty on March 1 and was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years' probation. He also is expected to face a suspension under the NFL's substance abuse and/or personal conduct policies, which is another concern for a Vikings team that desperately could use the vertical threat Simpson is capable of providing.
"There was a lot of research done before he came in on his visit," Spielman said. "I think from our ownership on down, after we've gathered all our information and talked to numerous people in all walks of his life (about) what type of character kid he is and what happened and why he got put in that situation and listening to him (Saturday) talk to all the people at our organization ... if we do sign or we do decide to sign a Jerome Simpson, it's going to be something that we felt comfortable enough with to bring into this organization, to give him a chance here."
Simpson's inconsistency on the field gives potential suitors pause, too. A second-round draft pick (46th overall) out of Coastal Carolina in 2008 who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the scouting combine, Simpson (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) had only 21 catches for 279 yards in his first three NFL seasons.
It wouldn't be a surprise for the Vikings to work out a deal even though Simpson has left town, though. Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and cornerback Chris Carr also departed without a deal this offseason before later agreeing to terms on one-year pacts.
Spielman said he's no closer to determining whether Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon will be his pick at No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft on Thursday -- if the Vikings stay put.
The personnel department wrapped meetings with coaches on Wednesday. Spielman said he spent much of the past four days finalizing grades and playing out possible scenarios the Vikings could face in Rounds 2 and 3.
"The other thing you've got to look at," Spielman said, "is knowing the needs of the teams behind you, because there's a lot of potential for us in the second round and even in the third round to potentially move back if we feel that strong about the depth in those rounds where we can still get a good player and continue to add draft picks. I think that would be something we would be definitely interested in doing."
As for trading the No. 3 pick, Spielman said he has received calls from "some teams" but declined to say which teams or how many. He wouldn't even rule out a scenario in which the Vikings trade so far back Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon all are off the board.
"If someone's willing to give you something that you think is just too good to pass up, you have to look at that option as well," Spielman said, "because if it is something where you have some future potentially number one picks in '13 and '14, those are things that you have to definitely keep in consideration."
Players began trickling into the Twin Cities last week in anticipation of Monday's start of the nine-week offseason program.
"I kind of took the whole month of January off and hung around Minneapolis and really sat on the couch and watched a lot of TV and played some video games, but that was about it," Ponder said on Friday. "Then, kind of eased into it, February, getting back in the weight room and working out and slowly getting my body back into it and then I took off for Miami (in) in the middle of March.
"When I was talking to a lot of veteran guys, they're like, 'You don't want to start doing a lot of stuff too early.' You just want your body to rest and recover, and especially mentally as well. Your rookie year is so long and with the lockout being a little different last year, it was a pretty long mental grind."
The first five weeks of offseason workouts are divided into in Phase 1 (two weeks, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation only) and Phase 2 (three weeks, limited on-field drills, no competitive periods, no helmets). Phase 3 includes four weeks of organized team activity practices, including the mandatory minicamp.
"I think (goal) number one is to continue to develop my leadership position," Ponder said. "Now, having that full season under my belt and not having to have that rookie label on me anymore, I think it's going to make it a lot easier for me to grasp that leadership position.
"But also still develop chemistry with the guys and especially the receivers, working on our routes and stuff, which we can do the whole offseason and all kinds of stuff. There's so much for me to work on obviously from last year to get better at and watching a lot of film and getting ready for all the new opponents we face this year."
• Spielman said he has not yet ruled out bringing back MLB E.J. Henderson or S Husain Abdullah, who both remain unsigned. "We always keep the door open, and you never know what's going to happen after the draft," Spielman said. The Vikings want to retain Abdullah, who has been weighing his options. It's unknown if they've made an offer to Henderson.
• Ponder was knocked out of last season's finale after aggravating a hip injury and also had several nicks on his face from a violent hit the week before against Washington. "I'm all healed up," Ponder said on Friday. "I'm ready to go get hurt again next year and the year after it." Hurt again? "I didn't mean hurt," Ponder said. "Taking my battle scars."