Vikings DT Kevin Williams, teammates react to judge's order

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A syrupy Southern drawl and flat-line demeanor make it nearly impossible to tell when Kevin Williams is excited, but he insists he was when he learned that he won't have to serve a four-game suspension this season.

"When given an opportunity to play, of course you're going to be excited," the Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle said Friday, one day after a federal judge extended his preliminary injunction against the NFL's suspension of five players for violating the league's anti-doping policy.

 "It's still ongoing so we're just happy that we're playing right now and we're going to focus on Arizona and making that push to get into the playoffs."

Williams and his linemate Pat Williams are among five players challenging the suspensions because they say the product they were using, StarCaps, did not list a banned diuretic on its ingredients.

The diuretic, bumetanide, can be used as a masking agent for steroids. Diuretics also aid in weight loss.

In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson asked both parties to propose a schedule by Dec. 22 for further proceedings that would lead to an eventual hearing on the merits of the case, a process that could take months. Lawyers for the union say they expect it to stretch past the Super Bowl, which means the Williams Wall will be available for the first-place Vikings as they make their push for the postseason.

Pat Williams declined comment after practice Friday, but safety Darren Sharper was more than happy to speak for him.

"Yes!" Sharper explained when asked his reaction to the news. "Wooo hooo!"

When word of the suspensions first reached Sharper, he said playing without the league's top defensive tackle tandem would be "a nightmare" that he didn't want to even think about.

"Now I don't have to think about not having them because they are going to be here," Sharper said. "Now we can just concentrate on football, don't have to worry about that too much. Our guys are going to be there, the core of our defense, to help us make this push. This is big. This is real big."

Coach Brad Childress was less animated, of course, but had to be relieved after being asked about the situation after being asked questions about it nearly every day for the last month.

"Just glad to have them for the next two or three games, whatever they're here for," Childress said.

The ruling assures that the Williamses will be in uniform for the final three games of the regular season, starting with Arizona on Sunday, and the playoff games should they qualify.

"I haven't been worrying about it really from the get-go," Kevin Williams said. "It's in the judge's hands now and basically that's what we're waiting on still. We just have an extended period and we can play right now."

They are going to need all the help they can get down the stretch to capture their first NFC North division title. After Chicago defeated New Orleans on Thursday night, the Vikings need to win Sunday over the Cardinals to retain a one-game lead on the Bears in the North.

Kevin Williams is second on the team with 8.5 sacks and Pat Williams is the emotional leader and chief run-stuffer on the line.

"I'm so used to having those guys and how much stronger they make our defense as a whole," Sharper said. "You just always want to have all your key components, especially with what we're trying to do. We're trying to get to the playoffs and win games so you want to have all your best players out there to help you do that."

The ruling also applies to New Orleans Saints Deuce McAllister, Will Smith and Charles Grant. All five players could still wind up having to serve suspensions, but with so much on the line this late in the season, the delay is a welcome one for them.

Sharper, the union representative for Minnesota, thinks that the judge's ruling is a good sign that their case has merit.

"I think it's going to set a precedent. A lot of guys that stuff happened to before are going to look now and see what could have been changed to hopefully help their cases out," Sharper said. "I think the union and the NFL are definitely going to look at the policy now and figure out what we have to do so that this doesn't happen again with so much confusion."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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