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 EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Darren Sharper's nightmare has come true.
When Pro Bowl defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams met with the league two weeks ago to appeal their suspensions for violating the league's steroid policy, the Minnesota Vikings free safety called the possibility of losing the foundation of their defense ``a nightmare.''
Now that the league has upheld the suspensions, the first-place Vikings are preparing to make a four-game playoff push without the Williams Wall. The players filed suit in Hennepin County District Court on Wednesday afternoon to seek a temporary restraining order to block the suspensions.
``On a personal level, it (stinks) for them. I know what they're going through,'' said defensive end Jared Allen, who served a two-game suspension last season in Kansas City after multiple DUI arrests. ``That's why we're with them. We've got their back 100 percent.''
oped to avoid suspensions because the product they used, StarCaps, did not list it as an ingredient.
The league denied the appeal, saying it issued a warning about the product in 2006.
``They're our teammates, our friends. I totally believe what they've had to say,'' linebacker Ben Leber said. ``That's why I think it's just unfortunate that they've had this four-game suspension handed down to them. I feel like their situation is unique. Hopefully things go well for them the next couple days and we get a different ruling.''
If the last-ditch effort to block the suspensions fails, the Vikings have a 650-pound hole to fill in the middle of their defensive line.
``Those two guys are a huge part of what we do as a defense, a huge part of what we do as a team,'' said Ellis Wyms, who will step in as the starter for Kevin Williams. ``It's on everybody on this team to step up. Everybody has to do their job a little bit better, a little bit harder. We'll step up as a team and we'll continue to do what we've been doing, keep winning and get into the playoffs.''
The news served as one big buzz kill for a team that appeared to finally be hitting its stride.
of Chicago on Sunday night that included a Williams Wall-led goal-line stand in the second quarter.
And now this.
Kevin Williams is second on the team with 8 1/2 sacks and is fifth with 48 tackles. His good buddy Pat doesn't rack up the stats Kevin does, but serves as the emotional leader of the unit and a run-stuffing demon on the interior.
Together, they draw the bulk of the attention from opposing offensive lines, making life much easier on the outside for Allen, who has 11 sacks.
With the Williamses suspended and end Brian Robison, who occasionally moves inside for the nickel package, not practicing after having athroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, Minnesota was left with Wyms, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion at tackle.
The Vikings signed Jimmy Kennedy, a former first-round draft pick who didn't pan out in St. Louis, Chicago or Jacksonville, on Wednesday to add some depth.
``Those guys are dying to play,'' coach Brad Childress said. ``Unfortunately, if they play, they're going to play because of a misfortune to somebody else. But that's no different than a Napoleon Harris stepping in for E.J. Henderson.''
Kevin Williams was promoted to defensive captain nine games ago when Henderson, a budding star at middle linebacker, was lost for the season with a toe injury.
Actually, Allen said, the loss of Henderson early in the season showed the unit that it can handle adversity.
``Unfortunately we're used to having big blows. Losing E.J. was huge earlier this year,'' Allen said. ``That's part of football. We all know that. We can win. We have a good defensive scheme. We really do.''
Wyms and Evans have 12 tackles between them this season and the 21-year-old Guion, a fifth-round draft pick out of Florida State, is the youngest player on the team.
``Pat and Kevin are great defensive tackles and we will miss them,'' Evans said. ``But at the same time, we have a great defensive line and a great defensive line coach in coach Karl Dunbar, so we'll just stick to what we do and keep it going.''
They will have to. The Vikings hold a one-game lead over Chicago in the NFC North. The Williamses will miss games at Detroit and Arizona and home against Atlanta and the New York Giants.
Even though Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper's job figures to be easier Sunday without the two big fellas staring him right in the face, he still felt for two friends he got to know well during his time in Minnesota.
``That's very unfortunate for both of those guys,'' Culpepper said. ``They're both dear friends of mine, and I hate that for them because I would love to compete against them. My thoughts are definitely with them, and hopefully they handle their situations the right way and I know they will.''
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