Patrick Reusse: No money, no fun so far for Kevin Williams

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2011 - 12:48 AM

The Vikings defensive tackle has played for free this season, and the team's 0-4 start means nothing much has gone right for him.

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Kevin Williams was suspended for the first two games of the year. He has played the past two games -- but he won't be paid for either one.

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Kevin Williams has been getting short-changed financially since he was drafted by the Vikings. That was the day the Purple was famously tardy with the seventh choice in 2003 draft, and two teams slipped in ahead before Williams was taken ninth.

It remains unclear if this was a misstep by the Vikings, or part of owner Red McCombs' commitment to frugality after making the decision to sell the team.

Whatever the truth, the Vikings wound up with the player they wanted, and Williams' first contract wound up worth roughly $1.5 million less than he would have made as a defensive tackle taken at No. 7 rather than at No. 9.

That was chump change compared to the assault on Williams' bank account that has taken place in 2011, his ninth season as a much-honored performer in the NFL.

Kevin and Pat Williams, his partner on the inside of the Vikings defense, spent three years in a legal fight with the NFL in the "StarCaps case.'' The NFL wanted to suspend the Williams Wall in 2008 for the presence of bumetanide, a diuretic that the makers of StarCaps had secretly included in their weight-reduction product.

There was amazing duplicity on the part of the NFL -- the league's drug police knew bumenatide was in the product, but it didn't inform players -- and yet the league's cadre of attorneys ultimately got the upper hand in the court fight.

Kevin Williams gave up last March. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Williams for the first two games of 2011, and also took his paychecks for the next two games.

Williams' salary in 2008 was $1 million, so four weeks' salary would have been roughly $235,000. His salary for 2011 is $6 million, so four games without pay has cost him $1.4 million-plus.

It would be unreasonable to expect the Vikings to pay any of Williams' salary for the two games of the suspension, since they didn't have his services. What would have been just was if Goodell had applied 2008 economics and fined Williams the equivalent of two game checks from then -- $117,000 or so -- for Games 3 and 4.

That's not the way this commissioner operates, though. He revels in stealing players' money through fines and suspensions. Plus, Goodell couldn't pass on the thrill of sending this message to all players:

"Never challenge the authority of the NFL or the commissioner, or I'm going to put the screws to you as I did Kevin Williams.''

Williams was beyond miffed when Goodell announced this summer that he was taking away the two extra weekly checks.

"Who wants to work for free?'' he said at the time.

This week, Williams was walking toward the locker room and a reporter said, "Congratulations.''

Williams shrugged and asked: "Why's that?'' Answer: "This is Week 5. You get paid.''

Williams didn't smile.

"I forgot about that,'' he said. "We need a win around here so bad that it hadn't crossed my mind. We can't look back at being 0 and 4. We can't look at what happens next week, next month. All we can look at is Sunday.''

Williams had no interest in sharing lingering thoughts on Star Caps, Goodell or playing for free.

"All that stuff ... we went through it for three years,'' Williams said. "The case is done. The suspension is done. The fine is done. It's officially over. Paid or not, I've been playing hard. I'm going to keep playing hard. I just want to win a game.''

Williams paused. "We have to win a game Sunday,'' he said.

What will it take?

"When everybody out there is pulling the same way, we're going to win,'' Williams said. "It's not effort -- it's consistently playing together.

"You can't play two good downs and then have someone jump offsides, or grab a receiver. On offense, you can't run off some good plays, then start early, or drop a ball.

"When we're all on board to do our job, and we do that consistently, that's when we'll get this thing going.''

Obviously, Arizona on Sunday is must-win?

Williams finally smiled and said: "We're way past must-win. We need one win ... on Sunday. There's no reason to talk about anything else.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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