Judge blocks suspensions of Williamses
MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minnesota judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the NFL's suspension of Vikings stars Kevin and Pat Williams for violating the league's anti-doping policy, but the players' status for Sunday's game at Detroit remained uncertain.
Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson issued the temporary restraining order at the players' request, saying he wanted more time to hear arguments in the case.
The Williamses were among six players suspended for four games for testing positive for a diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for steroids. They have argued that the substance containing the diuretic didn't list all its ingredients, and that league scientists and lawyers had information about the substance but withheld it from players.
The NFL argues that the league's policy on banned substances is collectively bargained with the players' association and that players should be responsible.
"This is one of the more difficult cases I've had in 23 years," Larson said before signing the order. "If I make a mistake, I've got to decide on a temporary basis which side I'm able to make the mistake on."
Larson said he would make himself available to reconsider the issue "as quickly as you'd like me to hear it." He also said he expected lawyers for the NFL, who participated in the hearing by phone, would take the issue to federal court in Minneapolis to get the suspensions reinstated.
"There is no merit to this lawsuit and we will promptly seek to have the order reversed," the NFL said in a statement.
Both Kevin and Pat Williams, who are not related, sat in the courtroom with their lawyers for Wednesday's hearing, which lasted more than two hours. Both declined comment afterward.
"They'll get back and get their playbooks and start focusing on Detroit," their attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said following the hearing.
Ginsberg didn't claim victory, instead saying, "It's a long hard road. It's going to take a long time for them to reclaim their reputations."
A message left by The Associated Press seeking reaction from the Vikings was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Dan Nash, an attorney for the NFL, told Larson before he issued the order that granting it would be unprecedented and create a sideshow, disrupting the Vikings team and sending a message to other suspended players that they could file similar lawsuits.
"This program (governing banned substances) would be thrown into disarray," Nash said.
But Ginsberg said his clients' case is unique and they should be given the benefit of the doubt and continue playing until the issues are fully addressed in court.
The Vikings are 7-5 and in first place in the NFC North, with the Williamses a big part of their success.