Commentary: Williams cases need resolution

The appeals being made by Kevin and Pat Williams are expected to be heard this week at the NFL offices, but a decision on their fate should be made quickly in the cases that have apparently dragged on since training camp.

For the last three weeks, discussion concerning the fate of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams has been a front-burner talker. What will happen to the Vikings if one or both are suspended? The bigger question should be how fast will the wheels of NFL justice spin?

Both of the Williamses are scheduled to meet with NFL officials this week to give their version of events that were made public by a media leak of their positive tests for substances banned by the league's steroids policy. The decision on their fate may have already been made. Their guilt or innocence under the NFL policy likely isn't a shade of gray. It's either black or white. Appeals will be heard, but a verdict has likely already been reached.

What should be of concerns to Vikings players, coaches and fans is what – if any – punishment will be handed down. If suspensions are to be meted out, they should be enforced this season. An appellate process is part of the NFL's secretive treatment of substance abuse enforcement, but how long should a decision be delayed before it is rendered?

The schools of thought on guilt or innocence on "Waterpillgate" are varied. One rationale says that, if in fact Pat and Kevin took StarCaps and the labeling was faulty, they have a case. Another says that players know that putting supplements in their bodies makes it their own responsibility to know exactly what they are taking. Considering the NFL's zero-tolerance policy concerning steroids, that school of thought is rigid in its beliefs.

If the NFL is to find both of the Williamses guilty, is delaying their penalty doing anyone any good? If, for example, the determination has already been made that, barring some unforeseen testimony, both are guilty, putting off the disposition of punishment could have a double-whammy effect on the Vikings.

Depending on the legal contentions of the attorneys for both players, a final decision could be held off until the end of this season. But then what? The Vikings could face the potential of being without their two starting defensive tackles for the first four games of the 2009 season. While that may be a viable solution for the short-term, the 2009 season would be crippled before it ever begins.

If the league is going to find the Williams Wall guilty, then do it. Dragging the process out into next season will benefit nobody – and potentially strike a blow to the Vikings' 2009 season that could have huge ramifications. Will free agents want to sign with a team they know will be without both starting defensive tackles – much less two Pro Bowlers – for the first two, three or four games? It could factor into their decisions.

If the NFL is going to make an example of Pat and Kevin Williams – right or wrong – do it this season. If they are guilty, it is guilt for the 2008 season, not beyond.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • Jared Allen is scheduled to meet with the league office Tuesday to discuss his multiple infractions of defensive decorum. Allen was fined $5,000 for jumping on a pile against the Bears in the last game before the bye week. He was fined $50,000 for what the league described as a pair of hits below the knees on Houston QB Matt Schaub. A week ago, he had a helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Like the Williamses, he could be facing a league-mandated punishment to further cloud the Vikings' postseason hopes.

  • It would seem the entire Vikings front four is going to be in some kind of trouble with the league office. Defensive end Ray Edwards seems almost assured of being slapped with a fine for his late hit on Jeff Garcia Sunday, a blow that required Garcia's chin to be stitched up. Brad Childress tried to defend the hit Monday, saying, "My general thought on that is, when you slow things down and look at it on a HDTV, football is a full-speed game. It happens at full speed and you're trying to make snap judgments at full speed." Unfortunately, the NFL fine police will likely count the three steps – in HD or not – that Garcia took before being drilled by Edwards into account.

  • Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said at his Monday press conference that running back Earnest Graham, who was rolled up by Kevin Williams on his first carry of the game Sunday, is likely done for the season. It is the third straight game that a Vikings opponent has lost a key player to a significant injury, with Graham joining Packers MLB Nick Barnett and Texans QB Matt Schaub on the M.I.A. list.

  • Childress again seemed to condemn the televised version of the game when asked Monday about what appeared to be a sideline dust-up between Adrian Peterson and running backs coach Eric Bienemy, saying, "I think it looks a little over-dramatized when I see it run in a loop 16 times in a row."

  • The Vikings were informed that their Sunday Night Football game with the Bears will remain as the prime-time game. It was subject to being moved as part of the league's flexible scheduling for Sunday night games in November and December, but, with first place in the division likely at stake, the league opted to keep the game in prime time.

  • The NFL is going to hear appeals from Saints players Deuce McAllister, Charles Grant and Will Smith – also caught up in the water pill scandal – on Tuesday.

  • Reports out of Las Vegas say that the gaffe by referees on the Steelers 11-10 win over San Diego benefited bookies $64 million. Pittsburgh was a five-point favorite and would have covered the spread had a defensive touchdown on the final play been allowed. Referees admitted they blew the call, but Vegas doesn't give do-overs, especially when the numbers tilt the way they did.

  • There is talk in Philadelphia that Donovan McNabb may be on the way out. If so, expect the Vikings to make a run for him in the off-season if Brad Childress is still the head coach.

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