Vikings DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams have a much better chance of being able to play the entire 2010 season without being suspended, after the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied the NFL's request for an expedited hearing on the case, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The league had asked the court for a speedy hearing so that the case could be resolved before the start of the regular season in September.
Hennepin County (Minn.) Judge Gary Larson ruled on May 6 that the league had violated the players' rights under state labor laws by failing to give them timely notice of their failed drug tests. However, he also ruled that the delay caused them no harm and that they suffered no damages as a result. Nevertheless, Larson stayed enforcement of the suspensions until the appeal process was completed.
According to the Star-Tribune, the filing of all the briefs and responses in a case such as this takes weeks, if not months, and the court will schedule oral arguments only when the file is complete. Once the arguments have been heard, the court has up to 90 days to issue a ruling.
The two Vikings defensive tackles opposed the NFL's request for an expedited hearing even though they had earlier indicated they would support a speedy hearing, according to the Star-Tribune.
The league could file a motion to lift Judge Larson's stay of the suspensions, the Court of Appeals said, but the NFL didn't immediately respond to the newspaper's request for a comment.
The league initially attempted to suspend the two Vikings players in December 2008 after they reportedly took the diet pill StarCaps during training camp to lose weight and subsequently failed a drug test. StarCaps contains the unlisted ingredient bumetanide, a diuretic that the NFL and the NFL Players Association classify as a masking agent for steroid use. Bumetanide is banned by the NFL, but the players argued that they didn't know StarCaps contained bumetanide and that the NFL had never informed them of that fact, even though the league was aware of it.
The NFL had planned to also suspend Saints DE Will Smith and former Saints Charles Grant and Deuce McAllister at the same time as the two Williamses, but they postponed those suspensions until a resolution was reached for "the Williams Wall."
Last month the NFL asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 2009 ruling that allowed the Williamses to sue the league under state labor laws, arguing that the National Labor Relations Act protects its collectively bargaining drug policy with the NFLPA from lawsuits in state courts.
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