- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 12, 2009

A federal appeals court Friday cleared the way for the Minnesota Vikings’ Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to play all season despite the NFL’s attempts to suspend them for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.

The NFL had said the defensive tackles could play in Sunday’s season opener at Cleveland because their court fight over the suspensions would not be decided in time.

The fight isn’t over, but a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld earlier decisions from a federal district court - including one that said the remaining legal issues must be resolved in state court. The judge there issued an injunction prohibiting the NFL from suspending the players, and he said a state trial during the season was unlikely.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is troubled by the ruling, which said federal law doesn’t pre-empt state law just because the parties are involved in a collective bargaining agreement. Goodell said the NFL was considering its next step, which could include an appeal, a trial in state court or taking the issue to Congress.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a blocked field goal in Pittsburgh’s 13-10 overtime victory against Tennessee on Thursday.

Even before Polamalu underwent more tests Friday to further evaluate the injury - a sprain is a tear in the ligament - Steelers coach Mike Tomlin estimated he would be out three to six weeks.

EAGLES: Philadelphia right tackle Shawn Andrews will miss the season opener at Carolina because of a sore back. The two-time Pro Bowl selection had his balky back flare up in practice Wednesday. He did not practice Thursday or Friday.

Also, quarterback Michael Vick will travel with the team to Charlotte, N.C., even though he cannot be reinstated until Sept. 27.

SAINTS: New Orleans left tackle Jammal Brown had hip surgery, a procedure that officials said could keep him off the field for several weeks. Jermon Bushrod will get his first career start in Sunday’s opener against Detroit.

RAIDERS: According to the Boston Herald, Oakland sent defensive lineman Richard Seymour a letter giving him until Tuesday to report to the team or face a season-long suspension.

TV: Cincinnati and Arizona announced that their season openers sold out in time to avoid a local blackout. Oakland received a 24-hour extension to sell out its opener.

Pittsburgh’s victory against Tennessee on Thursday drew the largest TV audience for the NFL’s season opener in seven years. The game, televised on NBC, scored a 13.8 overnight rating and a 23 share, beating the 2003 mark of 14.5 and equaling the share, according to Nielsen Media Research.

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