Though it remains to be seen whether Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams ultimately will avoid a four-game suspension for violating the league’s steroids policy, the NFL won’t be permitted to impose the suspension until the case is addressed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Judge Gary Larson ruled Friday morning that the Williamses satisfied the standard for proving that the suspensions should be blocked while the players exercise their appellate rights.
It’s a no-brainer, really. Once the suspensions are imposed, the litigation becomes moot. Given the Brian Cushing situation, which involved an eight-month lag between sample collection and suspension, the NFL will have an even harder time convincing anyone that the suspensions must be imposed immediately in order to preserve the integrity of the program.
The timetable for resolving the appeal remains unclear. The NFL could request an expedited review. Eventually, however, the Williamses would be making the same request regarding a potential appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, in the event that their next move fails.
Directly benefiting from the development are the Saints and defensive end Will Smith. The league received full clearance to suspend Smith and former Saints defensive end Charles Grant last year, but the NFL opted not to execute the suspension, apparently due to concerns that it would create a perception of inconsistent treatment.
Earlier this month, Judge Larson concluded that the NFL violated Minnesota law via the drug testing of Kevin and Pat Williams. Larson, however, ruled that the suspensions could be implemented, finding that the players had demonstrated no legal injury.