Judge agrees to stay their suspensions, which could remain in place through the upcoming season during the appeals process.
Vikings Kevin and Pat Williams could run out the clock for another season on their four-game suspensions for taking a banned diuretic.
Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson agreed to stay their suspensions if they appeal their case, which their lawyer said on Friday that they planned to do immediately. It's possible the stay could remain in place, allowing the "Williams Wall" to play the entire 2010 season.
The state Court of Appeals will automatically hear their case, which could take a few months, although both sides have said they will ask for a speedy hearing. An appeal of that ruling to the state Supreme Court could take beyond the 2010 football season to complete -- if the court agrees to hear the case.
Many scenarios are possible, including the NFL successfully asking the Court of Appeals to lift the stay, which would allow the league to suspend the two.
Larson ruled on May 6 that the NFL violated their rights under state labor law by failing to give them timely notice of failed tests, but he also determined that they were not harmed and suffered no damages. His ruling dissolved his previous order allowing the two to play until their trial was done.
"We're confident ultimately the courts will determine when an entity like the NFL violates a public policy statute, it can't proceed unrestricted," the players' lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said on Friday after Larson issued an 11-page order.
An NFL spokesman said in a written statement that the decision "upheld the operation of the policy," and he predicted the appeals court will do the same. The NFL also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision that allowed the players to challenge their suspensions. The league contends the collective bargaining agreement supercedes state laws.
In his order Friday, Larson all but called on the higher court to reverse him. "This court has no delusions of grandeur and has on previous occasions been reversed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court," the judge wrote.
He chided the NFL -- as he has before -- for deciding against telling the players that the weight-loss diet supplement StarCaps contained the unlisted ingredient Bumetanide, a powerful and dangerous diuretic. "Defendant created a trap that it knew would result in violations of the program," Larson wrote.
The NFL shouldn't be allowed to benefit from its own misconduct, Larson wrote.
He also said the players would suffer harm if he didn't delay their suspensions. "The loss of four games is considerable, given the relatively short season for professional football and the limited number of years remaining in the plaintiffs' football careers," Larson wrote.
The two defensive tackles both tested positive for the banned diuretic on July 26, 2008. The two then sued to overturn their suspensions.
In addition to filing an appeal, the players also must post $10,000 bonds to have their motion for a stay granted.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747