Williams Wall awaiting word on 2009
The two components of Minnesota's Williams Wall packed up their lockers this week and shifted into offseason mode. They have plans to attend next month's Pro Bowl and soon will begin preparing for their fifth season together on the Vikings' defensive line.
At some point between now and then, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams will find out whether they will be eligible for all 16 games in 2009 or if the legal system will uphold their four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's banned substances policy. At some point this winter, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson will rule on their lawsuit against the NFL, one that has been amended recently to include charges that the league's policy violates Minnesota state law.
(Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has a good primer on the latest legal maneuverings.)
The pair accomplished the goal of remaining eligible during the Vikings' playoff run, although Pat Williams missed the final three games because of a fractured scapula. The Vikings were 3-1 in the games they would have missed. But in listening to them talk earlier this week, it didn't sound as if either is willing to drop the legal fight now.
Kevin Williams said he was proud of the approach they took and would be "shocked" if the NFL prevailed in court.
"I hope it didn't distract my teammates much," he said. "You still had to go out and play ball, and that's the way I looked at it. We felt we were in the right, so it didn't really bother me."
Both players reportedly tested positive for a substance known as bumetanide, a banned diuretic contained in a weight loss supplement. Their legal filings indicate both were trying to make weight, were unaware of the presence of bumetanide and did not take steroids.
Players are not paid for the games they are suspended for, but Pat Williams said he is primarily motivated to clear his name.
"Basically to prove to everybody that I was innocent," Williams said. "I don't want to take no suspension. I basically [want to] just prove I'm innocent altogether."
It will be interesting to see whether the Vikings utilize the free agent market to help craft a contingency plan in the event either player is suspended for part of 2009. When news of their discipline surfaced in 2008, they scrambled to sign veteran defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy.
Kennedy, however, is a pending unrestricted free agent. So is Ellis Wyms, who would have replaced Kevin Williams in the starting lineup had the suspension occurred. Backup nose tackle Fred Evans, who replaced Pat Williams after the injury, will be a restricted free agent.