A good time for a bad suspension?

Pat and Kevin Williams still don't have a resolution to their appealed suspensions, but if they have to serve them, the first four games of the season look to be the best of the bunch. The Vikings face plenty of good running teams this season, but the opening month is as soft as it gets statistically.

As the days count down to the start of training camp, most of the focus remains on whether or not Brett Favre will be joining the Vikings. Rumors of Favre either buying or renting a house in the Twin Cities area have been making their way around the circuit. But what might be an even bigger story hasn't been receiving nearly as much attention.

With just four weeks to go until the start of training camp, there still hasn't been any resolution to the pending court case involving Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Their legal challenge to a four-game suspension handed down by the league in the StarCaps case is still working its way through the court system and, nine months after the suspensions were handed down, has yet to enforced.

The Vikings face the prospect of being without their star players for the first four games of the regular season – potentially the second straight year that the team would play the month of September without a star player. Last year, the Vikings played their first four games without offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who had to sit out the first four games of the 2008 season after being suspended for his role in a Miami bar fight. Many believe that the looming suspension could again be devastating to the Vikings, who went 1-3 out of the gate when McKinnie was forced to sit, but could it be that, even in a worst-case scenario, the Vikings could be fine even without the Williams Wall.

While both of the Williamses remain confident that their suspension will be overturned in the court system, the Vikings have be prepared to enter the 2009 season with two scenarios – one that includes the Williams Wall and one that doesn't. If the Vikings don't have their Pro Bowl defensive tackles, things may not be as dire as they might appear at first blush. Not because the Vikings don't need them – clearly they do – but the schedule of opponents lays itself out nicely if the Vikings are forced to play without Kevin and Big Pat.

If their case is determined before the start of the regular season and the Vikings have to be without them, the team couldn't have hand-picked a better starting schedule. In a season in which the Vikings play against strong running teams like the Ravens, Steelers, Bears, Panthers and Giants, the first four games are against teams that had a lot of difficulty running the ball against anyone – much less the league's best run defense.

The Vikings open the season with games against Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco and Green Bay. Last year, the Browns were 26th in the league in rushing, the Lions were 30th, the 49ers were 27th and Green Bay was 17th. Each of them struggled to establish the run and none of them have made any significant changes to their backfields since the end of the 2008 season.

Although the thought of the Williams Wall being sidelined is hard for many Vikings fans to take, if the worst-case scenario happens, the Vikings may well be able to absorb the loss with the use of Fred Evans, Jimmy Kennedy, Letroy Guion, Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell in a platoon system. Not because they will be as strong as the Williamses, but rather because the team could have had a difficult time hand-picking a better schedule to start the season.

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