Monday, September 7, 2009
Awaiting Williams Wall resolution
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Not until the final question of Minnesota coach Brad Childress’ news briefing Monday did the topic come up, but it’s one that could turn into the NFL’s biggest story by the end of the week. The Vikings are entering preparations for Sunday’s game at Cleveland without knowing if they’ll have the services of the Williams Wall.
Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams practiced Monday, but a possible four-game NFL suspension continues to hang over them for violating the league’s policy on anabolic steroids. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Minnesota has indicated it will issue an important ruling this week, one that likely will determine whether the players miss the Vikings’ first four games or if they’re in the clear until the end of the season.
Sometimes in cases involving pending NFL suspensions, you can assume a player will be eligible to play the next game if he is allowed to open the week of practice. But you can’t make that assumption in this case because the league announced the suspension 10 months ago. If it were up to the NFL, the suspensions would have begun this week. But the decision is now in the hands of an unpredictable court. A decision could come Tuesday or -- for all we know -- Friday night.
“It’s an unknown,” Childress said. “The NFL hasn’t really had anything to say about it. Nor have the federal courts, nor have we. It’s an unknown.”
I’ll spare you the legalese, but the bottom line is that the appeals court will decide whether Kevin and Pat Williams’ lawsuit against the NFL should be heard in Minnesota state court. If the appeals court agrees, the case will be scheduled for this winter and both players will be eligible for the entire season. But if the court rules that state laws don’t apply, both players will be suspended immediately. Their only option at that point would be to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Vikings have decent backups in Fred Evans and Letroy Guion, but let’s not kid ourselves. There would be a drop-off in the Vikings’ top-rated run defense if the suspensions occur.
Stay tuned for what could be an interesting ride.