Notebook: Hotline holds up

WR Bernard Berrian called into question the responsiveness of an NFL hotline that players can call to inquire about supplements, but in a follow-up interview Berrian's timeline was clarified and the league's inquiry to the hotline contractor seemed to satisfy the NFL. It all stemmed from a Fox Sports report Kevin and Pat Williams as testing positive for a banned substance.

It was just one week ago that news broke with a Fox Sports report that Kevin Williams and Pat Williams – key cogs in the Vikings' run-stuffing defense and both Pro Bowl players – could be suspended for four games for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances.

Much has been learned in the last week about the policy and what players go through, with new information surfacing each day. The report linked the players with a substance called Bumetanide and it is believed the players were unknowingly taking it in a weight-loss pill called StarCaps, which didn't list the ingredient and marketed itself as an all-natural product.

Bumetanide is on the list of banned substances because it can be used as a masking agent for other drugs, including steroids. The NFL's policy is clear on their banned substances: Players are responsible for whatever is found in their body.

They are not supposed to go to the team's trainers or doctors for advice on which products are considered safe and which aren't, but the NFL contracts with the National Center for Drug Free Sport to administer a toll-free hotline that players can call with questions about substances.

Then, in a radio interview with NFL Sirius Radio last week, Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian called into question the responsiveness of those handling the hotline.

"You've got to take some responsibility and call in to that hotline [to inquire about the legality of certain products]. But I know one thing about that hotline: I've called twice before and actually never gotten a hold of anybody sometimes. So even when you do try to do the right thing, sometimes it is still hard to get a hold of somebody and really find out what you're really taking," Berrian said.

Asked to expand on that by Adam Schein, one of the hosts, Berrian said, "I called twice one time because I was taking something that was kind of fairly new and I wanted to make sure, you know, that it wasn't illegal, and I'd get suspended for taking it. So I called twice and asked about it but I never got a response. And then finally on the third time, I finally got one. So you know, I mean, it's hard sometimes and you try to do the right thing sometimes, [and] it still doesn't work in your favor."

While that interview brought the hotline under scrutiny, Berrian said in another radio interview later in the week on KFAN that he actually got the information he needed the same day.

"That's good to hear," NFL spokeman Greg Aiello told Viking Update via e-mail. "We contacted our service (National Center for Drug Free Sport) earlier this week and it did an internal investigation. All calls are to be returned promptly after the subject of the call is properly researched. The service researched the call log since June and we were assured that all messages have received a response. We also plan to contact Bernard to review it with him and make sure he is satisfied."

While Berrian needed to call the hotline three times before getting an answer, he did get his question answered on the same day he started his inquiry about a relatively new protein beverage that he was given the OK to use. In the case of the bigger defensive linemen, the issue appears to be about weight-loss pills they were reportedly taking that didn't list the banned substance, and Berrian brought up a legitimate point about that during the Sirius interview.

"Some guys are bigger and really do need the help sometimes," he said. "There is a lot of stress put on making weight every week so you don't get fined. It's something they should definitely take a look at."

In fact, in Brad Childress' first training camp as head coach of the Vikings in 2006, Pat Williams started camp on the physically-unable-to-perform because he wasn't deemed to be in good enough shape. It was a rocky beginning to the relationship between the new head coach and veteran defensive lineman, but they appeared to quickly patch things up and reach an appreciation for each other.

The problem now is that fans are left to wonder what really happened with the Williamses. The team and NFL won't comment on specifics of the case since the drug program is supposed to be confidential. However, we asked the league if the players would even be able to defend themselves given the fact that Kevin and Pat Williams have both declined to talk about specifics of the case.

"An individual player is certainly free to discuss his own information if he chooses," Aiello said.

While Pat Williams told the Pioneer Press that he is upset about how this makes him look in the eyes of kids that view him as a role model, it would appear that he has the chance to set the record straight and say for sure what happened, at least with his case. Maybe he doesn't want to damage his case if it is on appeal right now, but until he a ruling is announced by the league – the Vikings don't comment on NFL policies – or the players say what happened, the Vikings and their fans will be forced into wait-and-see mode.


Jarrett Bell of USA Today picked Washington's Clinton Portis and Atlanta's Michael Turner over Adrian Peterson as his mid-season all-pro running backs. He also selected the Jets' Kris Jenkins and Titans' Albert Haynesworth over Minnesota's Williamses, but Bell didn't completely overlook the Vikings.

He selected Steve Hutchinson as his left guard with this analysis: "Still consistent, blowing open holes amid issues that disrupted offense."

Antoine Winfield was also selected as an all-pro cornerback by Bell. "At 5-9, 180, great pound-for-pound value; maybe NFL's most underrated playmaker," Bell wrote.


  • Ben Leber has been on the field more since the season-ending foot injury to E.J. Henderson, but he said conditioning hasn't been an issue for him since he took on a much bigger role in the nickel defense, filling Henderson's spot there.

    In the base defense, Napoleon Harris is expected to get his first start after coming off the bench in the last game against Chicago and playing most of the contest. "He'll probably admit that he was a little rusty, just getting the calls and getting them sorted out in his head, transitioning from Kansas City's defense to ours," Leber said of Harris. "I think the terminology is really what set him back in the first game. Physically and moving around, I think he looked pretty good. It's just going to be some time before it becomes second nature. He knew what to do, but I think there was just that split second – we talked after the game – that I think he just had to make sure in his mind that he was making the transition from one defense to another."

    S Darren Sharper on Harris: "Talking to him, he was asking me some questions … that's with any player that's coming into a scheme that's different than the one he was on before. He was in Kansas City and he probably would do things a little bit differently. But he's going to get accustomed to what we're doing and he's a smart guy. It shouldn't take him long at all. You should see him this game definitely play a lot faster than he did last game."

  • Texans coach Gary Kubiak on QB Matt Schaub, who doesn't have a road win yet this year: "Well, you can't blame all of the road on him. We haven't been very good on the road. We're all going to have to play better to improve Matt's record on the road. It's tough in this league. That's as tough as it gets. You've got to go out and function in a hostile environment and none more hostile than this. … I've been to this place many times, a very tough place to play, very loud and they're dang good, too. So, we've got our work cut out for us. We'll work with noise all week."

  • Kubiak, on being worried about rookie left tackle Duane Brown going against defensive end Jared Allen in a loud stadium: "Yeah, very much so. The good news is Duane's been in a couple of tough places already this year with Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. So, it's not like he hasn't been there. He just hasn't been there in a month and he'll find out real quick in this game how difficult it's going to be just from a noise standpoint and how good a player that is."

  • Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on his season so far: "To be honest, and it's not about individual stats or anything like that with me, but I really don't feel like I have performed well in the first half, especially watching the film. I really haven't played my best ball this year, at all. I would say, if anything, the best game I've had was against Chicago. I really see a lot of things I was doing differently in that game that I'm going to take on to the second half. I just look forward to doing better the second half, which I am going to do. I'm just going to help my team any way I can."

  • The Texans are converting a league-high 47.8 percent of their third downs. The Vikings defense is allowing a fourth-ranked 33.3 percent of third downs for their opponents.

    "We've definitely made a focus on lowering our third-down percentage," Sharper said. "Thirty-three percent is our goal. If we can hold teams around that conversion rate, we feel our chances of winning will be a lot better. Just knowing what they like to do, what routes they like to run, what combinations they like to do on third down and also just having a strong first- and second-down defense and making those third downs long … will make it tough for Houston to convert."

    Sharper's right. The Texans lead the league on first downs as well, which should help with their third-down conversion rate.

    "They don't hurt themselves and that's a big factor in any game. That's what gives you a better chance to win," he said. "The fact their third-down percentage is so high, there are a lot of factors that add to that. They've done so well on first and second down to make that third down so manageable and they also have had guys make play when they have had chances to."

  • Former Vikings kicker Eddie Murray on making the Detroit Lions' 75-year team: "We had to keep it a secret for a week or so. It was a great honor because, like the comments that Charlie [Sanders] had made, to think of 75 years with one team and to have 36 people selected and to be one of those 36 is definitely a great honor."

  • The Baltimore Ravens elevated kicker Steven Hauschka from their practice squad to the active roster on Thursday. Hauschka spent the offseason with the Vikings after signing as an undrafted free agent. The Vikings released him before the season started.

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