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Friday, December 5, 2008
Have at it: You want the Williamses to sit now

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

By minor miracle, we managed to keep this week's "Have at it" topic relevant for the past 48 hours.

We asked you to take a side on a sticky issue: Should Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams pursue legal action to lift their four-game suspensions? By doing so, they run the risk of having their suspensions temporarily overturned but later reinstated by the courts, a scenario that would leave them suspended for a potential playoff game.

The alternative would be to drop their legal challenge, serve the four-game suspension and be eligible for the playoffs.

The players' attorneys decided Wednesday afternoon to pursue the temporary injunction, but the overwhelming number of you argued for them to serve the suspension now.

Aginor_DM believes the Vikings have a strong shot to win two of their final four games without their star defensive tackles, a formula that should be good enough to win the division:

"Sit for the remainder of the season and take your chances. There is a good bet they beat Detroit for one win and there is a good bet the Giants rest their starters for the final game of the year for the other. Add in a good shot at the Cardinals and Falcons and there is no reason to jeopardize a possible playoff game on the off chance that the Vikings don't at least take two of the final four games. I don't see them running the table, but to say they won't win 2 games seems like a stretch even without the Williams wall."

NorsemanPower thinks other players would step well into the Williamses' shoes if they sit out the final four games:

"Take the suspension now. I believe the suspect suspension of two team leaders will elevate the play of the whole team. Use it to motivate the team!! We can get 2 of the next 4. Detroit and Arizona are very winnable and Atlanta and NY are in the dome. NY will be resting for the playoffs."

Doug Pretty sympathizes with the inherent problem -- it's conceivable the Vikings could miss the playoffs if the Williams sit out the next four games.

"It really is a "chicken or egg" type dilemma. As a fan, it's been so long since they've won a title or been in the playoffs, the temptation is great to want them to play now. However, what would the point be if we put a shell of our original defense on the field for the duration (however long or short) of the playoffs? Three of the four teams the Vikings finish the season with are contending for or have already clinched playoff berths, so at some point we're going to have to face a playoff caliber team without them anyway. Better to take our lumps now, since we get Detroit, and end the season with two home games."

My take? One thing I'll say off the top is there are some people in the Vikings organization who agree with you: They would prefer to see the Williamses take their punishment now and not risk missing a playoff game.

They know the players have some legitimate points and stand to lose more than $1 million in combined base salary, a total that their shares for playing even in multiple postseason games wouldn't make up. But they also know there is no precedent for challenging the NFL's steroid policy in court. There's no guarantee this lawsuit will work, no matter how legitimate the points are. And while it's possible that a good group of attorneys could delay the issue into the offseason, that's not a risk you want to be wrong on.

So here's my opinion: Let's find out how good the Vikings really are. If they're a legitimate playoff-caliber team, they should be able to beat Detroit and one of their final three opponents without the Williams Wall. Doing so almost certainly will win the NFC North title.

A team's regular-season competitiveness shouldn't be based on the presence of two defensive tackles, no matter how good they are. Playoff football, on the other hand, takes place on an entirely different plane and every team needs to be at full strength.

In the end, I think the Vikings have a better chance of winning two of their next four regular-season games without the Williams Wall than they do of winning a playoff game without them.