A federal appeals court on Friday cleared the way for Minnesota Vikings Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to play all season, despite the NFL’s attempts to suspend them for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.
The NFL had already said the two defensive tackles could play in Sunday’s season-opener at Cleveland because their court fight over the suspensions would not be decided in time.
“It’s a big sigh of relief to know we’re going to get to play the whole season,” Kevin Williams said. “We were looking forward to Cleveland not knowing what the future may hold. But it’s great to get if off of our shoulders in the season and know we can deal with it in the offseason.”
The fight isn’t over, but a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld earlier decisions from a federal district court — including one that says the remaining legal issues must be resolved in state court. The judge there has issued an injunction prohibiting the NFL from suspending the players, and he has said a state trial during the 2009 season was unlikely.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is troubled by the ruling, which says federal law doesn’t pre-empt state law just because the parties are involved in a collective bargaining agreement.