NFL Nation: supplements suspensions

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
K. WilliamsP. Williams

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."

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The legal fight apparently has begun. Attorneys for Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are seeking a temporary restraining order to lift their four-game suspensions.

The Star Tribune reported the players took their case Wednesday afternoon to Hennepin County District Court in downtown Minneapolis. Judge Gary Larson is presiding.

Details were not immediately available, nor was it clear how quickly Larson might rule. But the important fact is that the players are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to fight the NFL's discipline.

We will keep you updated as news warrants.

Here come the lawyers

December, 2, 2008
12/02/08
10:37
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

It looks like Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams aren't going to go down without a fight -- and a potentially ugly one at that.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the players have retained a New York-based attorney who plans to file litigation Wednesday to prevent their four-game suspensions from taking effect. In an interview with the newspaper, attorney Peter Ginsberg issued some aggressive rhetoric that indicates he will bring intense public pressure on the NFL to reverse its decision.

Ginsberg said the NFL is "fictionalizing in fact what occurred" and said it should be "sanctioned for this kind of behavior."

Moreover, Ginsberg accused the NFL of caring only about "the commercial aspect of the league" and showed "gross disregard ... for the health and safety of the players" by not specifically informing them that the StarCaps weight-loss supplement contained a banned diuretic.

(The league said in a release Tuesday that it banned all products made by the manufacturer of StarCaps and revealed the connection to the NFL Players Association in 2006. The NFL's collectively-bargained steroids policy does not require a more specific revelation, the league said in a statement Tuesday).

Ginsberg hammered the policy itself, saying: "It's not designed to protect the players. It's designed to placate politicians and protect the image of the league." He also called the suspensions "unfair to the teams involved, their fans and the players."

All of this sounds good and fair. But from a legal standpoint, it will be interesting to see if Ginsberg has a case. Is he merely trying to pressure the league into reconsidering? Or does he have a fact-based argument that could exonerate his clients?

After all, the NFL and its Players Association have collectively-bargained the steroids policy. Ginsberg would have to argue that the policy was wrongly administered. Suggesting that the policy itself is unfair or illegal might not help because the players participated in its development.

At any rate, it's clear this issue is far from over.

John Clayton weighs in on the suspensions.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Jackson

The Falcons just sent out a short press release in which they acknowledge a suspension for defensive tackle Grady Jackson remains a possibility. Six other players around the league were suspended Tuesday for using a banned substance.

The Falcons said Jackson's situation remains in the appeal process.

"NFL Chief Counsel Jeff Pash notified our club today that a decision regarding (Jackson's) suspension appeal has been deferred pending additional information,'' the Falcons said in the statement. "We are unable to comment further on any aspect of the NFL's Drug Policy.''

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Barring an unlikely run to the playoffs, Deuce McAllister's season is over. But his four-game suspension for using a banned substance brings to light a bigger question.

 
 AP Photo/Alex Brandon
 Judging by his reduced role this season, Deuce McAllister may have played his last game for the Saints.

Is McAllister's time with the New Orleans Saints over?

It sure looks like that's the leading scenario and that may make for a sad ending for a guy who arguably has been the best and most popular player in franchise history. But it's hard to see this playing out any other way.

Let's face the facts, long before the possibility of the suspension came on the horizon, McAllister already was facing a reduced role. He barely was used at the start of the season.

The man who used to be the heart and soul of New Orleans' running game saw his carries get taken away by Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas and even Aaron Stecker, before he got hurt. McAllister has played only a minimal role all season and it's hard to imagine him being in the Saints' plans for the future.

McAllister is going to turn 30 in a few weeks and he's had two major knee injuries. Sure, the Saints need someone who can run between the tackles, but they would have used McAllister more if they thought he still could do that. The Saints are going to have to go out and look for that type of runner -- to complement Bush -- in the offseason.

At the same time, McAllister and the Saints probably will part ways. Maybe McAllister will retire or maybe he'll be released and try to catch on with another team. Either way, this isn't the ideal way for a figure like McAllister to leave a franchise he's been the symbol of for so long.

 
 AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid
 Is this the end of the line for Kevin and Pat Williams in 2008?

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

You've probably heard by now that Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams have been suspended for the final four games after losing their appeal on positive tests for a banned diuretic.

I'm getting ready to jump on a conference call with an NFL attorney to get further information, but my initial reaction is that the NFL's press release announcing the decision is far more extensive than the ones that usually accompany such suspensions. This has been a highly public affair, and the league provided a lot of background into its decision-making process -- possibly in anticipation of a lawsuit from one or more players.

(ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that at least one player is planning to file for an injunction in U.S. District Court on Wednesday morning.)

The big revelation is that the league notified the NFL Players Association that "Balanced Health Products," which manufactures the StarCaps weight loss supplement that both Williamses used, had been added to a list of banned supplement companies. Beyond that, according to the release, the league's steroids policy "does not set forth an obligation to issue specific warnings about specific products."

That final clause addresses claims that the NFL withheld information that StarCaps contained the specific diuretic known as bumetanide. That appears to be the biggest contention of any lawsuit that could emerge.

There are still a lot of questions yet to be answered. Will either Williams sue the NFL in an attempt to continue playing? Or have the Vikings truly lost two Pro Bowl defensive tackles two days after taking sole possession of first place in the NFC North?

We'll be back shortly with more. Stay tuned.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The NFL's decision to suspend six players for four games apiece should help the Cardinals jump-start their ground game.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, the Vikings' often-immovable defensive tackles, were among the six players suspended. That means neither will play when Minnesota visits University of Phoenix Stadium for a Week 15 game against the Cardinals.

The other suspended players -- Charles Grant, Will Smith and Deuce McAllister of the Saints and Bryan Pittman of the Texans -- do not face NFC West teams over the final four games.

The suspensions also disqualify the six players from consideration for the Pro Bowl, which could help the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett earn a spot. Both Williamses earned Pro Bowl berths after the 2007 season. Dockett participated in the game as an alternate after the Bears' Tommie Harris withdrew from the game.

(Note: ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that at least one player is planning to file for an injunction in U.S. District Court on Wednesday morning.)

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