The Vikings' Pro Bowl defensive tackle duo of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are among five NFL players that will be able to participate in Sunday's games after U.S. District Court judge Paul Magnuson upheld a temporary restraining order against their four-game suspensions on Friday afternoon.
After hearing testimony for several hours on Friday, according to various media outlets Magnuson determined that he needed more time to sift through the information before making a final ruling on the cases.
"Judge Magnuson made clear this afternoon that he needed more time to fully and carefully consider all of the briefs, arguments, and cases put before him. We welcome that scrutiny," the NFL said in a statement. "We are confident that, once he has had an opportunity to review all of the relevant materials, including the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he will uphold our longstanding agreements with the NFLPA that protect the health and safety of NFL players and the integrity of our game.
The blocking of the suspensions means that Pat and Kevin Williams will be able to play for the Vikings on Sunday against the winless Detroit Lions. But if Magnuson rules in favor of the NFL suspensions next week, it would jeopardize the Williamses' availability for a potential Vikings playoff run. The Vikings, now 7-5, have a one-game lead over the Chicago Bears and a two-game lead over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
The Williamses, along with Saints players Deuce McAllister, Will Smith and Charles Grant, were suspended four games for testing positive for Bumetanide, a substance that can be used as a masking agent against steroids. But the players and NFL Players Association contend that the NFL knew about the presence of Bumetanide in the dietary pill StarCaps but didn't properly inform the players of that fact. The labeling for StarCaps did not include Bumetanide among its ingredients.
"The lawsuit claims a breach of duty on the part of league-appointed doctors and the NFL lawyer administering the policy who failed to warn players or the NFLPA that StarCaps – a legal, over the counter product commonly used for weight reduction – contained a substance which is prohibited by the program," the union said on its web site on Thursday. "These doctors knew as early as 2006 that use of StarCaps could cause a player to test positive under the program, after taking the unusual step of testing that product on their own initiative. The lawsuit requests an immediate injunction against the suspensions so that the five players can continue to help their teams reach the playoffs this season."
Friday's ruling came down shortly after the media access period concluded for the week at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility, but Pat Williams declined to comment before the ruling was announced. Both players were at the facility practicing on Friday as the team prepared for the Lions.
"We challenged the suspensions in this case because we did not believe the league acted properly when it withheld important information from the players about Star Caps," said Richard Berthelsen, NFLPA acting executive director Richard Berthelsen, on a statement on the union's web site. "The league doctors under the program tested Star Caps, knew they contained a prohibited substance, but deliberately failed to inform the NFLPA or the players of that fact. So far our effort has been a successful one and we are pleased that these players can continue to help their teams make the playoffs."
Hours before the Friday ruling, Vikings coach Brad Childress talked about the uncertainty of preparing this week to play the Lions, not knowing if his two Pro Bowl tackles would be available.
"Even though we'd like to know … I've seen guys have the flu, have food poisoning, have poison ivy, have to get an I.V. – can't go. It's your team, and three guys that maybe weren't planning on playing are now playing. From that standpoint, we at least have a heads-up," he said.
"The National Football League in general, the one thing you're certain about is uncertainty from week to week."
Childress can at least be certain that the Williamses will be available this Sunday.
Williamses will be available Sunday
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