Jerome Felton is having a horrible preseason and things just got worse. The NFL suspended the Minnesota Vikings’ Pro Bowl fullback for the first three games of the 2013 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The suspension comes as a result of Felton’s DWI arrest from June 2, 2012.
Felton had the charges in his case reduced to reckless driving and he attempted to appeal the suspension, but the NFL handed down its ruling on Monday. The 27-year-old was already out for the remainder of the preseason thanks to the emergency appendectomy surgery he underwent back on August 14.
Felton is a huge part of what the Vikings do offensively, since he is the lead blocker for All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season en route to earning NFL MVP honors and he estimated that Felton’s blocking was “worth 600 to 700 yards over the course of the season. Maybe more than that.”
Clearly he will be missed during the first three weeks of the season.
Felton bounced around the NFL after being a fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. The German-born fullback played his first three seasons with the Detroit Lions, before stints with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts in 2011. He found a home in Minnesota before the 2012 season and turned himself into a Pro Bowler. He re-signed with the Vikings in March with a three-year, $7.5 million contract.
Second-year tight end Rhett Ellison will likely replace Felton for now and undrafted rookie Zach Line and Matt Asiata are also candidates to fill in.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman issued the following statement about the situation:
We respect the league’s decision and Jerome understands it. Jerome is focused on returning to the playing field in week four vs. Pittsburgh.
Felton will lose out on $150,000 in salary as a result of his suspension.