Goodell won't prejudge, will make decision

As Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams travel to New York today to meet with NFL officials, Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would wait to hear all the facts in the appeals process and then make a quick decision.

After weeks of speculation, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are having their day in court with the NFL today in New York. This comes two days after the league met with three players from the Saints – meetings that started in the morning and didn't conclude until about midnight.

In those meetings, attorneys for the New Orleans players deposed the NFL's drug administrator, who testified that he discovered that StarCaps contained the banned substance bumetanide but didn't share the information with the players union. His rationale was that, if the information was made public, anyone who was caught testing positive for steroid-masking agents would blame StarCaps as a way to get out it.

Funny, but two years later, that is exactly what has happened. The Saints players argued that their understanding was that StarCaps did not violate the league's steroids policy because the ingredients on the package did not list any banned substances.

Despite what would appear to the average fan as being an air-tight case – there was no way of knowing there was a banned substance in StarCaps because of fraudulent packaging – it is far from being that simple. In fact, some of those with knowledge of the league's steroids policy are pretty convinced that suspensions will be handed down.

Why? Because the league has gone to great lengths over the years since instituting a steroids policy that each individual player is responsible for what he puts into his body. Claiming ignorance of the proverbial "honest mistake" doesn't really hold water.

"I think you want to go and hear the facts," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week on ESPN's "Jim Rome is Burning" show. "You want to hear what's being presented and then you make a decision as it relates to our policy and what's fair for everyone involved with the game."

Although Pat and Kevin will have their hearings today, the NFL has indicated that each of the cases will be heard separately and will rise and fall on its own merits, meaning there is the potential that some players may get no punishment and others could get a four-game suspension.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said on a conference call to Jacksonville reporters that he is not worrying about the potential suspensions.

"I'm really not. I'm a big stay-in-the-now kind of person and all that is speculation and that's what you guys do," Childress said. "I'm more worried about the Jacksonville Jaguars football team and us getting prepared for them."

How the ruling will come down is anyone's guess, but one thing that is likely is that if suspensions are handed out, they will be done quickly once the testimony has concluded. With only six games to play this season, the expectation would be that if any suspensions were handed out for offenses that occurred during 2008 that the punishment will be meted out in 2008. It might happen prior to the Bears game next Sunday night or it could happen the following week. But, if players are going to be forced to sit, expect the punishments not to drag on into 2009, where the suspensions could impact another season before it even begins.

"They have due process, of course, as part of our drug programs," Goodell said. "It's something that I assume we'll be making a decision as soon as those hearings are completed and informing both the players and the coaches of the teams and our fans."

THURSDAY NOTES

  • The Williamses won't be alone in New York. Both of their agents – Angelo Wright for Pat and Tom Condon for Kevin – will be at the meeting, as will Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Warren, according to the Star Tribune.

  • Jared Allen did not practice Wednesday and appeared to be in more pain following the Buccaneers game than he was heading into the Green Bay game after the initial injury. As a player with a lot of "tough-guy cred," Allen will likely do everything he can to get on the field, but it may be more difficult this time around than it was getting him ready for Green Bay or Tampa Bay.

  • Aside from Allen, two other Vikings – TE Garrett Mills (ankle) and WR Bobby Wade (thigh) – did not participate in practice Wednesday. Three other players were limited in practice – LB Vinny Ciurciu (hand), CB Benny Sapp (concussion) and S Madieu Williams (shoulder).

  • The Jaguars had five players who did not participate in practice Wednesday – RB Greg Jones (ankle), CB Omare Lowe (knee), CB Rashean Mathis (foot), RB Fred Taylor (neck) and WR Troy Williamson (groin). DT John Henderson was limited with a knee injury.

  • Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones practiced in full after missing last week's game with a thigh injury.

  • The decision to move Artis Hicks into the starting lineup at right tackle begs the question as to what role does Marcus Johnson still have with the team? Yesterday, Hicks told VU that he has only taken "two or three snaps in games that matter" at right tackle. Johnson started 10 games at right tackles in Brad Childress' first season in 2006. To get bypassed by someone with no tangible experience at your position can't bode well for Johnson's future with the team.

  • The Bucs made official Wednesday what had been feared from the opening play of last Sunday's game – running back Earnest Graham, who was rolled up by Kevin Williams on his first rush of the game, suffered an ankle injury that forced Tampa Bay to place him on injured reserve Wednesday.

  • The NFL reinstated troubled Cowboys CB Pacman Jones Wednesday for violating the league's personal conduct policy after Jones got in a fight with one of the team-appointed bodyguards hired to tail him and keep him out of trouble. He isn't eligible to return to game action until Dec. 7 at the earliest.

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