By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson took part with a team in a light practice on Monday and apologized afterward for the attention he brought to the organization over the weekend following his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.
The Vikings play at Seattle this Sunday, and Simpson said he expects to participate.
But coach Leslie Frazier spoke in uncertain terms about Simpson’s availability against the Seahawks and beyond.
“We’ll have further clarification as we learn more from the league as well as what we’re going to do internally, but you should have some information that should help you create some clarity regarding Jerome,” Frazier said, alluding to Simpson’s status in the NFL’s substance abuse program.
Simpson was suspended for three games last season for violating the league’s policy, and his case has again been placed under review.
Two seasons ago, while playing for Cincinnati, a major marijuana shipment was found by authorities at his home. He was eventually sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years of probation on a felony drug conviction.
Simpson declined to comment on specifics of the incident or elaborate on why he expects to be able to play this week. He said he spoke with the entire team but didn’t share the details. Simpson met Frazier in person at Winter Park on Saturday after being released from jail.
“I sincerely apologize for the attention that I have brought to the fans, our community and myself,” Simpson said.
He added of his teammates and Vikings staff: “I have great support, and I appreciate all they have and will do for me.”
Said Frazier: “It’s always disappointing when there’s negative light brought to our organization of any kind. It’s unfortunate when this happens. You have to deal with it, but’s definitely unfortunate for sure.”
Quarterback Christian Ponder’s status for Sunday is also unclear. He’s recovering from a dislocated non-throwing left shoulder.
“Have to take a look at and just see if he can function. You don’t want to put him in harm’s way. If he can’t protect himself you wouldn’t want to put him out there,” Frazier said, adding: “He’s made progress, which is encouraging.”
Frazier said Ponder would ideally practice with the offense by Thursday if he’s going to play. The coach declined to name the just-in-case starter, but Matt Cassel relieved Ponder after he was hurt last Thursday.
Strength and range-of-motion testing will be the primary means of evaluation of Ponder’s condition.
“We’re taking it day by day, but I think we’re all optimistic I’ll be able to play,” Ponder said, adding: “It’s not hindering my throwing motion or anything. It’s just going to be taking a hit or something, and we don’t have fear that it’s going to get worse. It’s just going to be able to handle the pain, and if I can do it, then I’ll play.”
NOTES: Rookie punter Jeff Locke will present a $10,000 gift to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, courtesy of Josh Freeman for giving the quarterback his jersey No. 12. Locke took No. 18 after Freeman arrived last month. ... Tight end Kyle Rudolph has shed his crutches for a walking boot on his broken left foot. He said the timetable his return remains 4 to 6 weeks from the injury he suffered on Nov. 3. ... Safety Jamarca Sanford (groin) was adamant in declaring himself ready to play on Sunday against the Seahawks and, potentially, former teammate Percy Harvin. “I really can’t wait,” Sanford said. ... Other injured regulars on track to return on Sunday: CB Chris Cook (hip) and TE Rhett Ellison (ankle). Frazier declined to evaluate the progress of RT Phil Loadholt (concussion), LG Charlie Johnson (elbow) and DT Letroy Guion (chest/knee). DT Fred Evans (knee) did not practice.