The Williams Wall got a big win Sunday to save their season and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday refusing to hear the case all but assures that the Vikings won’t have to deal with the yet-to-be-served 2008 suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams for the rest of this season.
The Williamses came under public scrutiny in 2008 when it was announced that they had been both tested positive for bumetanide, a diuretic found in the over-the-counter weight-loss product StarCaps, which has since been pulled off the market by the Food and Drug Administration. Bumetanide was not listed on the ingredients, but the NFL had made it clear to players that such “health store” products don’t follow normal FDA restrictions and that a player was responsible for anything he put in his body, knowingly or unwittingly.
Thanks to some savvy lawyer work, the case became diverted from an issue of a positive test for a banned substance in the NFL – for which both Pat Williams and Kevin Williams received four-game suspensions – into the legal authority the NFL wields over its employees. Peter Ginsburg, the high-powered attorney for the Williamses, filed motions early on in the process (which included players from the New Orleans Saints as well) claiming that the league policy violated Minnesota Drugs in the Workplace laws.
The NFL, which has actually won more than it has lost in the two years since the court cases began, has strong reason to want the state ruling dealt with in the court system. Because the NFL is a nationwide corporation that employees players in 21 states and the District of Columbia, it’s drug policies could face different standards from one state to the next, making it difficult to keep a level playing field if laws differ from state to state. The other major sports have joined in with the NFL to seek legal affirmation of their right to have a uniform policy for all 32 privately owned organizations within the corporation.
While the initial federal court ruling sided with the NFL, the motion that Ginsburg filed about state jurisdiction was remanded back to Minnesota state court, where Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson issued an injunction until other legal processes were completed. Both sides have filed suit that are currently working their way through the legal system.
The refusal of the High Court to hear the case likely leaves the NFL stuck with the potentially volatile world of hearings in front of the U.S. Congress. If the baseball steroid hearings are any indication, the NFL will have a lot of questions to answer, quite possibly its ignorance of clear long-term health implications of retired pension-earning employees. Things could get ugly on Capitol Hill, which is why Monday’s refusal of the Supreme Court to hear the case has to be viewed as a major blow for the league and a victory for the Williams Wall.
Losing on Sunday may or may not have meant that Brad Childress would be cleaning out his office at Winter Park Monday. But one thing was certain: The Cowboys losing Sunday night in a smackdown from the Packers made Wade Phillips a head coaching casualty. The Cowboys had lost eight of their last nine games on Phillips’ watch and, after showing patience and providing less-than-enthusiastic votes of confidence, owner Jerry Jones lowered the guillotine on Phillips Monday, appointing serial assistant Jason Garrett to the top spot.
Next Sunday’s opponent, the Chicago Bears, didn’t get a ringing endorsement from their own head coach. The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Lovie Smith as saying that, despite a 5-3 record, following another listless performance, escaping with a 22-19 victory over winless Buffalo Sunday, they don’t look as good as their record would indicate.
“We’re 5-3 right now and a lot of times it seems like we’re 2-6 or something like that,” Smith said. No kidding. The Vikings are 3-5 and think they’re a 6-2 team at worst. Funny how that works.
Smith may have a point. Of his team’s five wins, one was a sketchy ref-aided win over Detroit in Week 1. Aside from a win over the Packers in which Green Bay was called for a whopping 18 penalties for more than 150 yards, the Bears’ other wins have come against Detroit (2-6), Dallas (1-7), Carolina (1-7) and Buffalo (0-8).
Randy Moss, who showed up at the same time as new head coach Jeff Fisher Monday, got some company in the history books over the last couple of days. At the Metrodome Sunday, Larry Fitzgerald became the second-youngest player to reach the 7,500 receiving-yard plateau. The youngest? Moss. On Monday night, Terrell Owens joined the exclusive 150-receiving touchdown club – becoming its third member. The other two? Moss (153) and Jerry Rice (197).
The Packers placed 35-year-old veteran cornerback Al Harris on waivers Monday and teams will have until 3 p.m. CST today to make a claim on him and his $2.5 million base salary. Harris, who suffered a severe knee injury in November of the 2009 season, was on the physically unable to perform list and the Packers had until Monday to activate him, put him on injured reserve or cut him. They chose the latter option. It’s unlikely someone will claim him at that price tag, but he is convinced he may stay within the division. In a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interview, he said he expects interest from an NFC North, but wouldn’t speculate as to who that might be.
You have to feel a little for the Detroit Lions. Despite losing their starting quarterback twice and their backup once, the Lions have outscored their opponents 203-188, yet have a 2-6 record. They get ruled out of a season-opening win over Chicago by a questionable ruling on a Calvin Johnson touchdown and suffered losses of three points to the 5-3 Eagles, a two-point road loss to the 6-3 Packers and their other road losses have been to the Vikings and Giants. But their loss Sunday was even more painful for Lions fans to take. They lost 23-20 in overtime, but, thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty that kept a drive alive that would end up in a touchdown, kicker Jason Hanson, who was injured on the field goal attempt in which he was roughed, couldn’t kick the extra point. Who was called on? Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who promptly pushed the extra point wide right – despite showing good form for a 300-plus pounder. The miss gave the Lions a 13-10 lead instead of 14-10, which, it can be theorized, would have given them a 21-20 win Sunday instead of a 23-20 overtime loss.
In the “Let’s go to the videotape” file comes this: There is video proof of the smoking snag involving Ravens running back Le'Ron McClain? During Sunday’s game, Miami linebacker Channing Crowder went ballistic in an argument with McClain and, following the game, claimed McClain spit in his face. Thanks to local news footage on YouTube, there is little doubt that McClain did in fact hock up something for Crowder. Ah, technology! Let the fine police enter that video into evidence.
It seems Brett Favre will never escape the Scarlet Letter of scandal. In his return to television Monday, deposed late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien said he wanted to tell a joke that would sum up all of the major events that had transpired in the nine months since he left NBC in a power play with Jay Leno – who has worn out his Favre jokes to a Monica Lewinsky level (they never end). In O’Brien’s joke, Favre was included along the BP oil spill and the trapped Chilean miners. You get the feeling that this story, although all but dead in NFL investigative channels, is going to be something remembered long after the name Jenn Sterger is inducted into the “15 Minutes of Fame” Hall of Fame alongside such luminaries as Fawn Hall, Joey Buttafuoco, Heidi Fleiss and John Wayne Bobbit.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.