MINNEAPOLIS — 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.
OCHOCINCO SIGNS WITIH DOLPHINS: Veteran wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has signed with the Miami Dolphins, four days after being released by the New England Patriots.
by the New England Patriots.
The signing came after Ochocinco had a tryout with the Dolphins, who are thin at the position and have reportedly been dropping a lot of passes in offseason drills. He's likely to join the team for this week's OTAs, which continue through Wednesday.
"Congrats to Chad," tweeted his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "It's nice to come home."
The 34-year-old Ochocinco, a Miami native, made the Pro Bowl six times, most recently in 2009. He had only a minor role in his lone season with the Patriots, catching 15 passes for 276 yards.
The Dolphins traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears in March for two third-round draft picks, and didn't draft a receiver until the sixth round. Following a practice Monday, Miami coach Joe Philbin conceded there has been room for improvement in the pass-catching during offseason workouts.
"You would like to have some players make it easy and distinguish themselves, maybe make the picture a little bit clearer," Philbin said. "We have to catch the ball more consistently at every position on offense, because it is not quite where it needs to be."
Marshall's off-field issues wore on the Dolphins, and Ochocinco can be high-maintenance, too. His antics have sometimes annoyed his teammates and coaches, and his touchdown celebrations led to an NFL crackdown.
In his career, Ochocinco has caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns. All of the Dolphins' returning receivers have less than a dozen career TDs.
COWBOYS SIGN FORMER WEBER STATE LINEMAN: The Dallas Cowboys have brought back tackle Pat McQuistan two years after trading him to Miami.
The signing Monday reunited McQuistan with the team that drafted him in the seventh round in 2006 out of Weber State. He played 40 games over three seasons for the Cowboys, including all 16 in 2007 and 2008.
McQuistan started eight of 16 games for the Dolphins in 2010, and played 10 games for New Orleans last year.
RAVENS' VETERAN WR MASON RETIRES: Derrick Mason has retired as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, the team that provided him his biggest thrills during a 15-year NFL career.
The 38-year-old wide receiver announced his decision Monday in a ceremony at the Ravens' training complex. He said the decision wasn't difficult, and he wanted to leave as a Raven because "my heart was here."
Mason played eight seasons with Tennessee before signing as a free agent with Baltimore in 2005. He never missed a game over six seasons with the Ravens and is the team career leader with 471 catches and 5,777 yards receiving. He also ranks second with 29 touchdown catches.
Mason ranks 11th on the NFL career list with 943 catches. He amassed 12,061 yards receiving and scored 66 touchdowns.
GIANTS' LINEMAN FACES DUI CHARGES: New York Giants offensive lineman David Diehl has been arraigned in New York City on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says Diehl was arraigned on two counts of impaired driving. A judge ordered him to be released on his own recognizance and to return to court on July 26. His license has been suspended.
Police say they got calls about a car accident in Queens around 8:45 p.m. Sunday. When they got there, they found a BMW had struck several parked cars along 35th Avenue.
They say Diehl was behind the wheel. They say he was charged after a breath test showed he was above the legal limit.
"Obviously we are aware of the situation, although we have not yet had a chance to discuss it with David," the Giants said in a statement. "Since it is an ongoing legal matter, we will refrain from comment at this time, although we will say that David has been an outstanding representative of this organization for the past 10 years, and nobody knows more than David does what is expected of our players both on and off the field."
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