Vikings DTs return to practice amid lawsuit filed by NFLPA

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota's Williams Wall has been rebuilt, for now, even if it might have to be taken down again.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, their four-game suspensions temporarily overturned in court, resumed their places in the middle of the Vikings defensive line for Thursday's practice while the team worked toward Sunday's game against the winless Detroit Lions.

Suit filed to block suspensions

A federal judge will be asked to decide whether five suspended players deserve a chance to play Sunday. **More ...**

Veteran wide receiver Robert Ferguson was waived to clear room on the roster -- the Vikings were one over the 53-man limit, following the suspensions and subsequent signing of defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy -- and Winter Park was back to normal.

Sort of.

"I can't say I've ever been a part of anything like this," linebacker Ben Leber said. "It's definitely kind of a roller-coaster, because one day they're out, one day they're in. It's just speculation. I think that's the hardest part ... it's all speculation."

Added defensive tackle Ellis Wyms: "There's still, I guess, a cloud in the air of how long they're going to be able to stick around, but as long as they can stick around we're a better team with them in here."

A federal judge will be asked to decide Friday whether the Williamses -- and three other players with the New Orleans Saints -- should be allowed to play this weekend in spite of the NFL's ruling that they violated the league's anti-doping policy.

The Williamses and the NFL Players Association are fighting the punishment in separate lawsuits filed this week, claiming weight-loss pills they took weren't properly labeled.

Wyms, the backup to Kevin Williams, criticized the NFL's action.

"I think the league is kind of too tough on us sometimes," Wyms said. "I don't think the other leagues have as tough a policy as we have in this league. Those guys aren't doing anything to try to gain an unfair advantage. Those guys are just taking something to kind of help them with their weight.

"It's kind of sad how the league kind of attacks us and fines us and kind of takes from their livelihood. Those guys work hard to earn their salaries, and for something silly like that to even threaten taking money out of their pocket or threaten hurting us in a playoff run right now, it's just silly and stupid to me. I guess it just brings a little bit more attention to it, and guys have got to be a little bit more careful."

The Williamses declined interview requests Thursday.

The Vikings have vigorously defended their players, sending owner Zygi Wilf to New York for their appeal hearing two weeks ago and issuing a statement on Tuesday after the NFL's announcement that the team was "very disappointed" in the decision.

However, the legal haggling could wind up hurting the Vikings worse than if the complaint was never brought forward.

If the Williamses are allowed to play against the laughably bad Lions, as weak of an opponent as there has been in the league in years, they could be forced to sit out a first-round playoff game if the Vikings qualify and then the suspensions are upheld.

Coach Brad Childress declined to acknowledge concern about that scenario.

"Just because we're in the now, this week," Childress said.

Childress said he wasn't consulted by the players regarding pursuing this in court; they only asked what they needed to do to catch up on the game plan after missing Wednesday's practice. The coach said he had an opinion on the timing of the action, but declined to share it.

Angelo Wright, the agent for Pat Williams, acknowledged concern about a delay potentially affecting postseason status. But Wright said in an e-mail it's up to the attorneys to "fight this out" and that he expects his client to continue to play.

None of the players queried in the locker room Thursday acknowledged concern about the ramification of a delayed suspension for their stalwart tackles, or even that the entire situation meant much of a distraction for the playoff chase.

"We're focusing on playing the Detroit Lions," defensive end Jared Allen said. "Right now Pat and Kevin are back, and we're excited about that. I'm not going to sit here and think about what could be or what might be or what had been."

Both Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said they were unsure whether they'd have the Williamses this weekend, though getting rid of Ferguson was a sign they felt reasonably confident. Childress said they "mixed and matched" the Williamses with second-stringers during practice.

"You don't know," he said. "You can't exclude anybody."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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