Timing now an issue in Williams Wall case

Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams will be able to play this weekend, but the status of their appealed suspensions continues to linger over their heads. The question now is the timing of a suspension, if indeed it does come at all this season.

Here we go again.

Last year, it seemed to be almost weekly that questions and concerns would arise about whether or not Pat Williams and Kevin Williams would be able to play or have to start serving their four-game suspensions imposed by the NFL for testing positive for the banned substance bumetanide.

It would appear as though the specter of the court case will hang over the Vikings again this season. The NFL announced Tuesday that both players will not have to start serving any suspension this week, even if the appeals ruling goes against them from a three-judge panel at the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court acknowledged when it took testimony Aug. 17 that it was mindful of the start of the regular season and would render a decision at or around the start of the regular season. At question remains the legal question as to whether the NFL can impose a suspension that violates pre-existing state laws concerning drug testing in the workplace. But the bigger problem for the Vikings is when a suspension (if it comes at all) would be imposed.

When the 2009 schedule was released, one of the benefits for the Vikings was that the first five games were all against teams that had draft picks in the top 10 selections due to their awful 2008 records. But, if the process is delayed much beyond that, it could create a whole new set of problems for the Vikings trying to move on without the Williams Wall.

If the court upholds the NFL's right to suspend the Williamses, if it were to happen within the next week, the Vikings would be able to handle the loss markedly easier than if it is delayed. Had the suspensions taken effect to start the season, the Vikings would have been without their Pro Bowl defensive tackles for games against Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco and Green Bay. If, however, they are imposed and delayed just three weeks, the scenario would be much different.

In the second half of October, the Vikings schedule gets considerably more difficult. The three opponents heading into their bye week are the Ravens, Steelers and Packers, with the Pittsburgh and Green Bay games both coming on the road. While the Vikings could likely absorb the loss of the Williamses for teams like the Browns, Lions and 49ers, missing out on games against Super Bowl contenders like the Ravens and Steelers would be much more difficult.

Pat and Kevin remain confident that they will be able to clear their names and not have to serve a suspension, it would appear that, much like last year, the cloud of the StarCaps controversy will continue to hang over their heads into the 2009 season.

WEDNESDAY NOTES

  • The Favre Factor continues to spread. Initially, FOX intended to send the Vikings-Browns game Sunday to approximately 15 percent of the country as one of its early games. The network announced that Favre's Viking debut will now be seen be about 40 percent of the country as the first part of its doubleheader package, according to the Star Tribune.

  • Brian Billick, who will be providing color commentary on the game Sunday, is promoting a new book that went on sale Tuesday. Billick was busy making the rounds on talk radio stations and ESPN Tuesday to drum up some publicity for his book.

  • As part of Kickoff Week 2009, fans are being encouraged to follow the Vikings at the team's Twitter account today to get clues as to the secret location of Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who will be somewhere in the Twin Cities metro area. The first 50 fans to find him will be able to attend the taping of his new radio show.

  • Linebacker David Herron, one of the Vikings final cuts last weekend, is working out with the Rams in hopes of getting a deal done with St. Louis.

  • Daunte Culpepper issued a statement Tuesday saying he was "excited" when the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick in the 2009 and that he supports the decision to name the rookie as its opening day starter. He was very gracious about the organization and claimed he will help Stafford any way he can.

  • The rumor out of Cleveland is that many Browns players believe that Brady Quinn will start at quarterback Sunday against the Vikings. Head coach Eric Mangini hasn't made an announcement to name a starter, despite claiming he knows who it will be.


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