In the end, the Bengals didn’t get into a bidding war for Jerome Simpson.
Sure, they wanted him back and they had contract talks. But he ended up in Minnesota on a one-year deal and that tells you a lot. The Vikes were more aggressive, more adamant he’d get a shot. The big thing it says is probably the best thing for both sides. He needs a new venue to refresh a career that can still be big. And the Bengals needed to move past a guy that managed to be frustrating in two very different offenses and exhaust a batch of different coaches when it came to execution.
But this is not a bad guy. If anything, his departure mirrors the contradictions of his four-year career. He left Tuesday after serving 15 days in jail on a drug charge and the NFL handed him a three-game suspension and yet he was one of the more active and generous Bengals ever when it came to community endeavors and charitable functions.
Hometown Huddle. Taste of Cincinnati. Bowling for Autism. A Marvin Lewis Community Fund gig. You name it, Simpson was always there smiling and signing.
Dave Butz, his agent, recalled Tuesday the days long before last September when marijuana was delivered to Simpson’s Northern Kentucky home. Butz would get a call from Simpson and more often than not it was about giving rather than taking.
One time the call wasn’t even from Simpson. It was from a guy saying he was from near Simpson’s hometown of Reidsville, N.C. and he told Butz that Simpson had told him he’d pay for a scoreboard at a local rec center. When Butz called him, Simpson told him, yes, indeed, it was on the up and up.
And there were the 89 backpacks Simpson bought for a Reidsville school to match his uniform number. And there were the 89 coats he donated to underprivileged children to the community.
“Very generous guy,” Butz said. “And he always has been from Day One.”
Even before last year’s problems, Simpson was a hard guy to figure. He had a running feud with the media that no one could really quite figure because he never played until late in his third season. It seemed to stem from his belief that the media had built him up when he was drafted and then ripped him when he didn’t play. All true and yet all facts of life in the NFL, and that seemed to be a hard transition for him.
And yet, when he did deal with the media he was great. Enthusiastic, pleasant, polite.
It was the same thing on the field. On one play he’d make ESPN. On the next, they couldn’t find him.
It just didn’t work here. It happens.
But he gave back. He just didn’t take on his way through. And how many guys do that?
“I’ve worked with 50, 60 NFL players over the years and he’s at the top of the list when it comes to that,” Butz said.
That’s why you wish guys like that well.
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