Notebook: Williams Wall still working

Pat and Kevin Williams were at practice on Monday and likely will be available for the regular-season opener. See what Brad Childress and Ben Leber had to say about the situation. Plus, get insight on what went into the decisions at center and many other backup spots.

With all the focus on the quarterback drama surrounding the Vikings in the past month, the potential suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams – aka the Williams Wall – has slipped into the background.

But with a three-panel judge for the U.S. District Court of Appeals saying it would keep the timing of the regular-season opener in mind when rendering a ruling, it is possible, although seemingly unlikely, that the Williamses could be suspended for the first four games of the season. The panel could decide whether or not part of the case should be heard in Minnesota State Court. If that happens, the suspensions likely wouldn't be enforced this season, as a state court judge has already indicated that case wouldn't be heard until after the season.

The Williamses practicing with the team on Monday is a good sign for them. Normally the NFL doesn't want players who are going to be suspended to be at practice with their team the week preceding the suspension. The NFL didn't return an e-mail seeking clarification on that regarding this case last week.

The league also hasn't been in contact with the team over the situation.

"It's an unknown. The NFL really hasn't had anything to say about it. Nor have the federal courts, nor have we," said head coach Brad Childress after Monday's practice. "It's an unknown. Anything you write, you are right."

New Orleans Saints defensive linemen Will Smith and Charles Grant are also awaiting word on their suspensions stemming from the case in which the players ingested StarCaps, a weight-loss supplement that contained the banned substance bumetanide, but didn't last the ingredient on the label of the StarCaps bottle.

NFL.com's Jason LaCanfora wrote that a decision would need to be made by Tuesday or the players would be able to play in the regular-season opener.

"If the Saints don't get word from the NFL or the courts about the status of Smith and Grant by Tuesday night, the players will be permitted to play this week, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation, even should a ruling by the courts come in the ensuing days," LaCanfora wrote.

Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said he had doubts about the Williamses' playing status this summer, but eventually he stopped following the case.

"There were doubts from me, but at the same time I could hardly follow the story, the accuracy of all the reports – what court was ruling what," Leber said. "There was a point in the summer where I just let it go. Whatever decision they finally make, that's when I'll worry about it. It sounds like it's good news right now."

The Williams Wall is an important part of the Vikings defense, as each of them made the Pro Bowl last year as part of the league's top run defense.

"It would make obviously a big difference (without them)," Leber said. "The continuity of our defense is one of the things that makes us so good. Those guys are big guys up front that make a lot of plays that I think a lot of guys can't make. If they go down, we'll have to make some adjustments."

That would include a rotation of backup defensive tackles Fred Evans, Letroy Guoin and Jimmy Kennedy. Despite keeping three backups at the position, Childress said those players would have made the team regardless of the Williamses' situation.

"The guys that made our roster as defensive linemen were going to make our roster regardless of any circumstances anywhere. It just happened to be a year where we were able to keep nine (defensive lineman)," Childress said. "That's where we kind of had a dearth of players. We are happy to have those guys."

CENTER-TO-CENTER EXCHANGE

It appears that experience won out when it came to the Vikings center position.

With John Sullivan's first NFL snap on offense coming this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings originally kept an undrafted rookie, Jon Cooper, as Sullivan's backup. But when the Denver Broncos placed second-year pro Kory Lichtensteiger on waivers, the Vikings waived Cooper and signed Lichtensteiger.

"We liked him coming out (of college). He has played for a year in that West Coast offense there," Childress said. "He was kind of caught in the numbers game (in Denver). I will be interested to watch him with pads on, how he carries his pads. He did not have practice-squad eligibility, so that was kind of the thing that pushed it the way it went. But anyhow, I think he is a big body. He's a smart kid, an intelligent kid, and an aggressive kid. You like some of those things."

As it turned out, Cooper cleared waivers and the Vikings re-signed him to their practice squad on Monday.

"I still love Coop," Childress said before the Vikings were able to re-sign him. "He's a competitive guy and that doesn't change at all how I feel about him. There was another different guy out there that fit the bill and had to be a part of our 53 and didn't have practice squad eligibility."

SPECIAL-TEAM EMPHASIS

Many of the player personnel decisions the Vikings made over the weekend revolved around the backup players' ability to contribute on special teams.

Receiver Darius Reynaud can return kicks and play on the coverage teams. Linebacker Kenny Onatolu's specialty is special teams as he makes the transition from the Canadian Football League to the National Football League. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley is also expected to be a solid special-teams contributor, and the vast majority of the backup players the Vikings kept contribute on at least one phase of special teams.

"Whether it was the safeties we kept or the backup corners, we always had an eye toward the special teams with almost every position," Childress said. "What kind of snaps (can he play)? Is he a four-phase guy? Is he a three-phase guy? Is he a two-phase guy? That was something that we talked about all of the time. I think it will end up helping us."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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