While we're no closer to knowing whether Brett Favre(notes) will come back to the Minnesota Vikings — gratuitous baseball bets aside — we now know that two more Vikings are one important step closer to a full 2010 season. Friday morning, Hennepin County Judge Gary Larson ruled to put on hold the four-game suspensions of defensive tackles Pat Williams(notes) and Kevin Williams(notes) as they take their case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The two players, who have been fighting the results of positive drug tests since 2008, are contesting that the NFL failed its ethical obligation to tell players that Bumetanide, a banned substance, was present in StarCaps (over-the-counter) supplements, which were frequently used as a diuretic. It is also contended that the NFL violated state labor laws by failing to tell the players of their positive tests within a three-day period. Larson previously ruled that while the NFL appeared to be playing fast and loose with its policies, the players did not prove specific harm.
But the memo written by Larson Friday was far more telling and intriguing; the judge seems to expect the Williamses to ultimately win their appeal. "This court has no delusions of grandeur and has on previous occasions been reversed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court," Larson noted.
Larson also came out with much stronger language against the NFL. Per Pro Football Talk:
"Public policy . . . dictates that [the NFL] should not be permitted to benefit from its own misconduct," Larson wrote. "Here, [the NFL] knew Star Caps contained Bumetanide, that players were ingesting Bumetanide, that Bumetanide was dangerous, and withheld information about Star Caps, knowing that players would suffer as a result. [The NFL] created a trap that it knew would result in violations of the program."
"[The NFL] could have easily avoided this very situation by informing players or teams about what it already knew — that Star Caps contained a hidden, dangerous substance," Larson explained. "[The NFL] knew that many players were already inadvertently ingesting Bumetanide, and continued to place the health, safety, and welfare of its players in jeopardy, so that [NFL vice president for law and labor policy] Adolpho Birch could play a game of gotcha. The league clearly allowed a half dozen other players to use Bumetanide without punishment."
That's the kind of language that will have the NFL and its lawyers looking for the aspirin — and most likely will allow the Williams Wall to spend the first four games of the 2010 season on the field. Not to mention Saints defensive end Will Smith(notes), who was caught up in the same StarCaps bubble. The Saints and Vikings face off in the NFL's season opener on Sept. 9, so Smith and the Williams Wall will have something to talk about pregame. And since commissioner Roger Goodell will no doubt attend the NFC Championship game rematch, maybe they can tell the commish what they think of the way this has been handled.
- Minnesota Court of Appeals