Federal court hasn't ruled yet
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings linemen Kevin and Pat Williams still don't know if they'll be suspended by the NFL in their dispute over its anti-doping policy, but the fight won't be in state court any time soon -- if at all.
Hennepin County Judge Gary Larson put state court proceedings in the case on hold Wednesday, pending a decision from a federal court. He said a state trial during the 2009 season was unlikely.
"The court routinely accommodates parties' work and family obligations," Larson wrote, adding that "it is not likely that the court would, or could, force plaintiffs into trial during the middle of the playing season."
Larson granted the NFL's request to hold off until the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals weighs in. That panel hears arguments Aug. 18 in St. Paul.
The players, who are not related, are not accused of taking steroids. They tested positive last summer after taking the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contains a banned diuretic that can mask the presence of steroids. The diuretic, bumetanide, wasn't listed on the label.
The NFL wants to suspend the players for four games each.
"I just want it to be over," Pat Williams said at practice in Mankato. "If they're going to suspend me, they'll suspend me. If they ain't, they ain't. I'm just tired of it dragging and keeping going because you don't want to keep it over your head, your family's head, your teammate's head, your coach's head, your owner's head."
The players want a swift resolution; the season begins with a Sept. 13 game at Cleveland.
After the Williamses sued to fight the suspensions announced last December, the NFL argued to a federal judge that U.S. labor law pre-empted the pair's state claims. The judge dismissed some aspects of their lawsuit but left others up to the state court, a part of the ruling the NFL has appealed.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the ruling recognizes that "no useful purpose is served" by litigating the case in two courts. He said the NFL continues to believe a federal court should resolve disputes over the collective bargaining agreement as it covers banned substances.
The federal appeals court could decide that the case belongs in its jurisdiction. That would give the NFL freedom to enforce the suspensions, barring other legal maneuvering.
The players' lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, said Wednesday's decision makes them "more confident they can go about their job and not be disrupted for the next several months."
Kevin Williams called the state judge's decision a "step forward."
"There's a chance that it could still go against us," he said.
The Vikings are eager to get the players back for a run at the NFC championship.
"Those guys are a big part of the team, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson said.
The NFL Players Association has its own federal appeal pending in an attempt to aid the Williamses and three other players suspended for the same alleged violation: New Orleans Saints Charles Grant and Will Smith, and former Saints player Deuce McAllister.
The union has argued the NFL didn't properly inform players about what it knew about the products they used.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press