- Ben Goessling, ESPN Staff Writer
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Wide receiver Jerome Simpson was back at the Minnesota Vikings' practice facility on Tuesday morning, confident he'd made his case that the NFL should lift his three-game suspension as best he could. But until the league makes a final decision on whether it will suspend Simpson for a drunken driving arrest last November, the Vikings have to hedge their bets about whether they'll have their No. 3 receiver at the start of the season.
"You have to have a varied plan," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "Unfortunately in this game, guys miss [time]. If it's a case where someone misses because of an off-the-field thing, that's one thing, but we could be in the opening game, and someone we're counting on to play a big role sprains his ankle on the third play. We have to have a plan to go play and do the things we want to do. There's certain plays that 'Simp' is really good on, and there's other guys that have to fill in if he's not in for that play."
Simpson's attorney, David Valentini, said on Monday night that he was one of two attorneys representing the wide receiver at his appeal at NFL headquarters in New York, where the attorneys argued Simpson's suspension should be lifted after he pleaded guilty to lesser charges of careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test. The receiver, who was arrested Nov. 9, registered a blood-alcohol level of .095 on a breath test, which was above Minnesota's legal limit of .08, when an officer stopped him on Interstate 394 in Minneapolis, but Valentini has contended that if Simpson had taken a blood test the morning of his arrest, he would have passed it.
The receiver has completed his community service requirement after pleading guilty in January, and if the NFL decides not to officially hand down the three-game suspension, Simpson would be available at the start of the season.
For his part, Simpson said on Tuesday that his meeting with the league "went great" and he's now ready to move on. But if the league decides to suspend Simpson, it could put the Vikings in a bind at the beginning of the year, especially after wide receiver Jarius Wright left practice with an ankle injury on Monday.
Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith have been battling for a fifth receiver spot -- and Turner said the Vikings could keep both of them if they're playing well enough -- but neither has caught a pass in a regular season game. The Vikings would also miss Simpson's downfield presence; the receiver might be the most natural deep threat on the Vikings' roster.
"I think we have a lot of guys who can stretch the field and get deep. Some of them do it in different ways," Turner said. "Greg Jennings has caught some deep balls out there against our top corners [in practice]. A lot of it depends on coverage, a lot of it depends on the play we have designed, but I think we have a number of guys that can make big plays down the field."