The NFL won the first round against the Williams boys.

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Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson has ruled that Kevin and Pat Williams, DTs for the Vikings, have to serve their 4 game suspensions ordered for violating the NFL Substance policy. The two were granted an injunction against the suspensions pending the outcome of the court case in Minnesota Hennepin County court. Judge Larson will hold a hearing today to determine if the injunction will be granted again pending the two players appeal of his decision.

This is a critical case not only for the NFL but for every professional sports league. The key issue revolved around the claim by the players that the state law of Minnesota over rules the negotiated agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. In addition the Williams claimed that the NFL did not notify them within 3 days and the league leaked the information that the two had violated the drug policy. The court found that although both claims were accurate, the players did not suffer damages from the violations of procedure. The NBA and MLB both filed friends of the court briefs in support of the NFL’s position.

NFLPA Ex. Dir. DeMaurice Smith said “This policy is the most effective in sports when both sides strictly adhere to it and it is fairly applied.” He did not indicate if the union would participate in the expected appeal.

The two DTs were originally suspended for the first 4 games of the 2008 season but got an injunction pending the outcome of a trial on the issues.

There are several reasons that this case is critical to the future of the league. First, the decision indicates that the court accepted the argument that the league was a national organization made up of individually owned franchises. If the federal court finds as the state court did it would allow the league to avoid similar suits in other states based on laws in those jurisdictions.

Second, it could also provide a precedent for the American Needle vs. NFL case that the league is a single entity.

If the NFL succeeds in both cases, it will be in a much better position to dictate terms to the union. Smith knows that and as much as he wants the drug policy to be maintained, he does not want the union to be put in an even worse position in the negotiations for a new CBA.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

Technorati Tags: nfl,NFLPA,DeMaurice Smith,Vikings,Pat Williams,Kevin Williams,MLB,NBA,Court,Collective Barganing Agreement,Union
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The Pats hope Brady is Brady.

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QB Tom Brady had the most replayed and discussed injury in the recent history of the NFL in game 1 last year. All Coach Bill Belichick wants is his QB back to where he was before the injury. All reports are positive and it looks like Brady is back at close to 100%. The Pats have added some key veterans that make the team better. That’s all very bad news for the rest of the AFC.

Over the last few years, the Pats have been plugging in younger players. Last year, they went 11-5 without the best QB in the league. Now they have him back and the team will be much better than 07 or 08. There is no experience behind him.

The running game is a lot more solid that it looks from the outside. It is deep and talented. Starter Laurence Maroney has underachieved and has been injury prone but help has arrived in the form of vet Fred Taylor. Maroney will have to improve or Taylor will get the majority of carries. Vets Sammy “the versatile” Morris and Kevin Faulk the 3rd down back are joined by rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis in reserve.

As if the receiver corps didn’t have enough speed, the Pats added the aged but still fast Joey Galloway to Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Welker should be totally uncovered with so much D attention having to be given to Moss and Galloway. Greg Lewis and Brandon Tate are capable backups. TE remains a trouble spot.

The offensive line is back intact and is solid but unknown. That is just the way Belichick likes it. T Matt Light and G Logan Mankins hold down the blind side while the much improved G Stephen Neal and T Nick Kaczur are on the right. C Dan Koppen is as good as any in the league and has the advantage of working against one of the best NTs in the league Vince Wilfork everyday in practice. The reserves may change but the starters are mostly young and all solid.

The key to the NE D is the front three and there is more than a little tension there. While Es Richard Seymour and Ty Warren are quiet, Wilfork is unhappy and clamoring for a new deal. But he will be there deal or not. The front three have been outstanding at defending both the pass and the run. They work seamlessly with the backers to provide more different looks than there are snowflakes in New England in the winter. Key reserves are T Titus Adams and E Jarvis Green and swing man Le Kevin Smith.

Grizzled vet IB Tedy Bruschi gets a second year to work with running mate in Jerod Mayo. Mayo had an outstanding rookie year after learning to do his job rather than freelancing. Brushi and Belichick will keep him under control and continue to get the maximum out of his unique athletic ability. OB Adalius Thomas is outstanding and Pierre Woods finally gets a shot at starting because of the retirement of Junior Seau (we think). Reserve Shawn Crable would start for most NFL teams.

The youth movement has hit the D backfield as well. The new starters at safety will be James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather who ended up playing a lot last year due to injury. Rookie Patrick Chung looked very good in OTAs and is challenging for a starting spot. CB Shawn Springs will start on one side but the other CB is totally up in the air. The leader going into training camp is Terrence Wheatley who had the job last year but is returning from injury. Vets Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler will both challenge Wheatley for his job. Bodden was signed as a FA and just a couple of years ago was considered one of the better CBs in the league and still has some skills.

OVERALL: The Pat haters will not like this but look for NE to get back to the AFC Championship game and perhaps the Super Bowl. They are the most likely to win it all.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,NFL Draft,Patroits,Belichick,Wilfork,Brady,Maroney,Taylor,Galloway,Moss,Light,Bruschi,Springs,Sanders,Super Bowl,AFC
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The NFL Drug testing policy is in jeopardy in the Courts.

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To many, the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the NFL prohibiting them from suspending Viking DTs Kevin and Pat Williams for the first 4 games of the 2009 season might look like no big deal. Those people would be totally wrong. It is a huge deal involving several issues including the ability of the NFL and other professional leagues to suspend players for taking unauthorized drugs.

The drug involved in the Williams’ case is basically water pills. The NFL has put the drug on the baned list for two reasons. First, some claim the drug is useful as a masking agent for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.

The second reason that this and similar drugs are on the baned list is the safety of the player taking it. Don’t forget it was a Viking OT Korey Stringer in 2001 that died from heat stroke after reportedly taking water pills for weight loss. The Williams’ both claim that they were taking the drug for exactly the same reason and did not know that what they had taken contained ingredients that were illegal.

Another major issue for the NFL is that the Minnesota State court system has gotten involved in the issue. It was a state judge that issued the original TRO. The NFL has always claimed that it is not subject to state courts because it is a single national organization with local franchises. The claim filed by the NFL with the Minnesota court that they were not subject to state jurisdiction was rejected.

If this issue rings a bell, it is because the federal court law suit by Needle against the NFL involves the issue of the league’s ability to sign an exclusive apparel deal with a single vendor.

Several reports indicate that the NFL has tried to negotiate a lessor suspension like 2 games in exchange for the Williams’ dropping their law suit. Neither player has budged saying that they did nothing wrong and would not accept any suspension. That offer by the NFL is an indication that they realize that their entire drug program could hang in the balance with this law suit.

The programs of all other professional leagues will also be subject to challenge should the NFL fail to win the day. All professional league programs are built on competitive balance, player safety and union/league agreement. Those programs will be at risk should the NFL’s long standing program be judged illegal even in part. The challenge is not only that the league’s right to suspend players for taking certain drugs but that the league does not have the authority to determine which drugs should and should not be on the list.

Look for the league to lose the case and appeal it to the federal court of appeals. Then the challenge will be whether or not the federal court will hear the case. If they refuse leaving a state court finding against the league without taking the case, the NFL can expect to spend a lot of time in state courts all over the league on various issues.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,Drugs,Williams,TRO,state court,Needle,NBA,NHL,MLB,drug policy,suspension
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