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Minnesota state law requires that an employer give an employee who tests positive for drug use the right to explain the positive test. The NFL's policy says a positive result won't be excused because a player was unaware he was taking a prohibited substance.
Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL filed a friend-of-the-court brief in July supporting the NFL's position. In court papers, they argued that they need uniform policies.
An attorney for the Williamses was pleased with Friday's ruling.
"It's a terrific ruling for us and it's a terrific ruling for unionized employees everywhere," Peter Ginsberg said. He said the ruling shows that "even an $8 billion business cannot ignore liberty rights and protections established by state legislatures."
The appeals court decision could affect current New Orleans Saints players Charles Grant and Will Smith, as well as Deuce McAllister, the Saints' career rushing leader who was released after last season. The three are not part of the Williamses' lawsuit in state court.
The NFL will review the judge's ruling and make an announcement on those suspensions.
"The thing that I'm focused on right now is to play Detroit," Saints defensive end Charles Grant said. "Everything else that is happening, if it's meant for us to play, we'll play. If we don't, we have to be grown men, suck it up and take what's due to us."
Vikings coach Brad Childress said his players can put the legal battle behind them for now and look forward.
The news, in fact, could not be better for the Vikings, who fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders this season. Losing the "Williams Wall" would have been devastating for their defense, which is one of the best against the run in recent history.
Now they can be sure that both players will be in the lineup every week as they defend their NFC North title.
"It's definitely great to have them back," said Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards. "They're pretty much the heart of the defense and you can't really do too much without your heart."
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