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Earlier Thursday, we noted that that Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams will remain eligible to play in regular-season games for as long as their legal battle with the NFL lasts. We speculated that it could be quite some time before that process ends, but Thursday afternoon the league released a statement predicting a conclusion before the Vikings' Sept. 13 opener at Cleveland.
Here's the NFL's full response to Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson's decision to extend an injunction that temporarily lifts both players' four-game suspensions:
"Today's decision, which effectively exempts two players from the NFL-NFLPA collectively bargained program, further illustrates the critical importance of a uniform policy for all teams in the league and why this matter should be governed exclusively by federal law. The Court's interim decision regarding the suspensions has no immediate practical impact since the suspensions will not take effect until the beginning of the regular season in September. In the meantime, our appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, which argues that the players' state claims are barred by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, should be resolved before the start of the season."
(For an excellent rundown of the entire legal situation as it stands now, make sure you read this report from Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)
Essentially, the league is suggesting that an appeals court will act sometime within the next nine weeks to resolve the issue of whether its steroid testing policy should be subject to Minnesota state law. It's certainly possible the court will side with the NFL by then, a move that would bring the legal proceedings to an end and start the clock on both players' suspension.
But if the court sides with the players, allowing a lawsuit to proceed in state court, it's hard to imagine the process ending by mid-September.