Not that there’s ever a good time for a player to be suspended, but Jerome Felton‘s three-game suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Minnesota Vikings. Due to the nature of appeal processes in professional sports, Felton is just now getting suspended for an incident that occurred over a year ago when he had just signed with the team. The fullback was arrested after allegedly passing out from intoxication, in a McDonald’s drive-thru. The charge was eventually reduced to reckless driving, but the NFL still handed down a three-game ban for violating its substance abuse policy.
Now the Vikings are stuck with the reality of being without their Pro Bowl fullback for the start of the 2013 season. For most teams, losing a fullback wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Minnesota, however, relies on its running game more than any other team in the league. Adrian Peterson will be able to get by just fine, but I think it’s pretty clear he’s at his best when Felton is blocking for him. The star RB never used to like fullbacks in front of him, but after gaining a career-high 2,097 yards in 2012, he’s changed his stance.
The Vikings passing game has again not looked great this preseason. Of course you can’t put too much stock into exhibition games, but Christian Ponder and the first team offense has looked far from on top of its game. The loss of Felton only puts more pressure on the QB to succeed.
In his absence, second-year FB/TE Rhett Ellison figures to step in and pave the way for the game’s best back. By week four, Vikings’ fans will see how important Felton is to the purple and gold.