A Williams, Winfield Wednesday

While Pat and Kevin Williams had a hearing on their cases on Wednesday, Antoine Winfield appeared to be closing in a contract extension. It was a day for the defenders to be in the headlines.

Pat and Kevin Williams will continue to have the specter of their potential suspension hanging over them at least into training camp – and perhaps much longer.

Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson said he will rule by Aug. 7 whether to put the state lawsuit filed by the Williamses on hold. The request did not come from Pat and Kevin, it came from the NFL.

The league's attorneys have asked Larson to stay the case in his court, two legal questions remanded to the state court as part of the NFL Players Association suit in federal court that was thrown out earlier this year. The two legal claims made with respect to Minnesota law were not dismissed by the federal judge, because both dealt with drug testing in a Minnesota workplace, which was specific to state law and not a federal issue. That appeal in the federal case is going to be heard Aug. 18 in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul. Larson might render his decision earlier than the Aug. 7 date given for his decision.

Depending on how quickly these legal matters – whether a trial in state court or a decision from the appellate court – can be resolved is unclear. But it is appearing more and more likely that the suspension the league has tried to impose won't be resolved any time soon.

WINFIELD CONTRACT CLOSE?

For much of the offseason, there have been questions raised about the future of Antoine Winfield with the Vikings. One of the most productive big-money free agent signings in franchise history, Winfield had excellent lobbying strength coming off his first Pro Bowl. On Wednesday, word surfaced that Winfield is closing to signing a contract extension that will likely allow him to retire as a Viking.

The NFL's official website is reporting that the i's haven't been dotted or the t's crossed on the final contract, but that the major issues of negotiation have been agreed upon and that the remaining points of the deal are likely to be resolved in the coming days.

Winfield, a 10-year veteran, has been with the Vikings since 2004. He spent his first five seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Winfield has become a defensive team leader over the years and, despite turning 32 last month, is still playing like a cornerback in his prime.

Winfield is entering the final year of the six-year, $34.8 million deal he signed in 2004. It was believed that a contract extension was coming following the draft in April, but talks stalled, which some attributed to the potential of the Vikings being forced to eat up a lot of the 2009 cap space with a potential Brett Favre signing. Winfield held out of the team's offseason workouts as an indication that he wanted a new deal and wouldn't take any workout risks until one was completed. Matt Birk tried a similar ploy last year and was allowed to leave via free agency after last season.

The Vikings are looking at a multi-year window of opportunity to make a run at the Super Bowl and keeping Winfield has to be viewed as a positive step in that direction.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • Kicker Stephen Hauschka, who spent training camp keeping Ryan Longwell company, is the current frontrunner to win the kicking job in Baltimore. Hauschka was signed as a kickoff specialist because veteran Matt Stover couldn't consistently kick off deep. Stover was released after the season and Hauschka's only current competition is undrafted rookie Graham Gano. There are whispers, however, that if neither does well, Stover could be re-signed – a second coming of the Gary Anderson debacle of the Mike Tice Administration.

  • From the "I Didn't Think He Was a Diva" Department comes this: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Seattle wide receiver who turned down a free-agent contract from the Vikings because he didn't like their quarterback situation, is going to boycott the Madden 2010 game because of his low player rating. He blamed the Bengals anemic offense for his 10-yard per catch average and said he won't play the Madden game again until "they my get my rating right."

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