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NFL takes hit as court puts 5 player suspensions on hold

December 5, 2008 |  7:00 pm

Nfl For once, the NFL has been assessed a delay of game.

A federal judge has blocked the suspensions of five players who violated the league’s anti-doping policy -- meaning instead of starting their four-game suspensions Sunday, they will be on the field.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings and Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints each had been suspended four games for testing positive for a banned substance, diuretic, which is an ingredient in the dietary supplement, StarCaps, but is not listed on the label.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson says he needs more time to consider the case. In this case, time is not on the NFL's side.

The players haven’t won the case yet, but they did win the opportunity to play in the stretch run of the season. And missing, say, the first four games of next season compared to the last four of this season is … well, no comparison. Playoff spots are on the line. Next season teams will be prepared to deal with the losses of the players.

Although the NFL hasn’t lost its case, either, consider this: the players had been suspended for testing positive in training camp in July and August. Now the league knows what teams feel like when an NFL official goes under the "replay hood" for further review. Upon further review, the NFL must feel like it has lost some control.

-- Athan Atsales

Photo: The NFL logo at Super Bowl XXXIII. Credit: Tom Hauck / Allsport