Williams Wall fights to clear their names

Kevin and Pat Williams are confident they can win their court cases with the NFL, with their primary goal being to clear their names as they maintain they are innocent of violating the league's policy on steroids and related substances. Both players talked about the ordeal this week.

For most of the Vikings, the long 2008 season that began with the offseason workout program last March ended with their final team meetings Monday. For a handful of others, the Pro Bowl awaits next month. But for two Vikings, the lingering effects of the 2008 season will continue well into 2009.

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are known collectively as the Williams Wall to Vikings fans. In October last year, a story broken by FOX Sports stated that several players had tested positive for the banned substance Bumetanide, with the Williamses being two of the players named. Since then, they have been in the middle of a firestorm of questions and debate in the court of public opinion.

Last month, the NFL Players Association, on behalf of Pat and Kevin, sued the NFL for $10 million. Monday, attorneys for the Williamses amended the suit to include the league's failure to comply with Minnesota law – citing provisions in the Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act. The 2008 season is over. The four-game suspensions still hang over their heads. But both remain confident that the cases won't drag out deep into next year and that, one was or another, the matter will finally be resolved.

"It's going to be over soon," Kevin said. "It's pretty much over to me. I don't know what else we can do with it."

The players contend that the NFL knew the product StarCaps, used to cut weight quickly, contained Bumetanide but failed to inform any of the players. The league contends that players are cautioned about using supplements, because they aren't federally regulated and what they contain isn't always the same as what is marked on the label ingredients. Players have been told that they are responsible for whatever substances go in their bodies and, knowingly or unknowingly, taking a banned substance is grounds for suspension.

For both Pat and Kevin, the implication that they were cheaters – Bumetanide is a banned substance because it has been used by athletes to mask the use of steroids – overrides the loss of income that would come from a four-game suspension.

When asked what was more important – having his reputation restored or having the suspension thrown out – Pat made no bones about his feelings.

"Clearing my name," Pat said. "It's to prove to everyone that there are limits – prove it to the players and everybody else."

The plan is to continue to fight the league in the court system. Both have maintained their innocence from the outset, despite admitting to taking StarCaps. Both were led to believe the product did not contain a banned substance and said their fight is continuing.

"We're not trying to be suspended, as you can see," Kevin said. "If that's the road they're going, we're going to fight it."

Kevin added that, while he expects the case to run its course over the next several weeks, he said accepting the suspension at any point never factored into his mind. Both he and Pat have been consistent in saying they believe they never violated a league policy because of the circumstances that surrounded their positive tests and, for his part, Kevin said he doesn't expect the four-game suspension to take place during the first four weeks of the 2009 regular season.

"I would be very shocked," Kevin said when asked if he would be surprised if his suspension was upheld. "With the situation that is going on, you just have to make the right decisions."

Neither player said he would be willing to accept "a deal" that would reduce the suspensions from four games down to one or two.

"In my mind, it's all or nothing," Kevin said.

"I don't see any difference in between them," Pat said. "Basically, it's all together. I ain't going to take no suspension now. I just want to be proved innocent."

Although the looming suspensions were cause for a lot of concern among fans and the media, as well as the coaching staff that would face the potential of a stretch drive without two Pro Bowl players, Kevin said he doesn't believe their ordeal was a distraction to their performance on the field and that it didn't impact how they prepared for games.

"It really wasn't (a distraction for me)," Kevin said. "I really hope it didn't distract my teammates. But you still had to go out and play ball. That was the way I looked at it. We felt we were in the right."

As the case moves forward, both Williamses seem adamant about pursuing the case until they get the result they want. But can they win?

"That's the plan - hopefully," Pat said. "I've been praying on it. Kevin's been praying on it. It's all going to come out in the open this offseason."

While both players maintain that their goal in following up on their court cases is the clear themselves of any wrongdoing, even if the league prevails in court, they're confident in themselves and that those they care about believe them when they maintain their innocence.

"Everybody already knows me, so everybody already knows the truth," Pat said. "I ain't really worried about that. The fans still love me. Kids still love me. I still do my charity work, so everybody still loves me so I ain't hurt by nothing really.

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