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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Amid jokes and barbs from their teammates, Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams returned to the practice field Thursday -- thanks to a Minnesota judge who lifted their four-game NFL suspensions with a temporary injunction a day earlier.
Both players participated in a morning walk-through and are scheduled for Thursday afternoon's full practice, barring a legal reversal of their injunction. There is still no clear indication whether they will be able to play Sunday at Detroit; the NFL Players Association has filed a second legal action in U.S. District Court. But for one morning, at least, life was relatively normal at the Vikings' practice facility.
"Guys were asking them if they had enjoyed their vacation, as short as it was," said defensive tackle Ellis Wyms, who would start Sunday if the suspensions are upheld. "Everybody is just upbeat and happy to have them back. I guess there is still a cloud in the air as to how long they're going to be able to stick around. But as long as they can stick around, we're a better team with them in here."
Neither Pat Williams nor Kevin Williams made themselves available to speak to the media. It is believed the Vikings had to make a move to get them back on their active roster, but that personnel change was not immediately evident Wednesday morning.
UPDATE: Veteran receiver Robert Ferguson was not at practice Thursday, indicating he was the roster casualty.
Both players were suspended after taking a weight loss supplement that was laced with a banned diuretic that can be used to flush steroids from the body. Their court documents insist that neither player knew about the presence of the diuretic and that neither has ever taken steroids.
Nevertheless, the mistake has sent mild reverberations around the Vikings' locker room.
Wyms said the suspensions "bring some attention" to the possibilities when taking supplements but he had harsh words for the NFL's steroids policy.
"The league is kind of too tough on us sometimes," Wyms said. "I don't think the other leagues have as tough of a policy as we have in this league. Those guys aren't doing anything to gain an unfair advantage. Those guys are just taking stuff to help them with their weight.
"It's kind of sad the way the league attacks us and fines us and kind of takes from our livelihood. Guys work hard to earn their salaries. For something silly like that, to even threaten taking money out of their pockets or even threatening to hurt us in a playoff run right now, is just silly and stupid to me. But I guess it brings a little more attention to it and guys have to be a little more careful."
Other than a few more media members in the locker room Thursday, players insisted they are preparing for Sunday's game in a normal environment.
"It is what it is," defensive end Jared Allen said. "Right now Pat and Kevin are back, and we're excited about that. I'm not going to sit here and think about what could be, what might be or what had been. We're here to play the Detroit Lions this week and that's all what we're thinking about."