MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minnesota judge extended his injunction against the suspension of five players for violating the NFL's anti-doping policy on Thursday, clearing the way for them to play at least the next two weeks and into the postseason.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson suggested the league and the players try to work out the dispute themselves. Barring that, Magnuson said he would hold an evidentiary hearing and asked both parties to propose a schedule by Dec. 22 to file pleadings.
Kevin Williams and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings and Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints were suspended last week for four games each. They tested positive for a banned diuretic in the dietary supplement StarCaps.
NFLPA lead attorney Jeff Kessler told ESPN's Chris Mortensen, "As long as their teams are still playing, these players will be on the field the rest of the season, including the postseason. You can count on that."
Magnuson issued his initial injunction Dec. 5 after hearing arguments from the league and the NFL Players Association. That move came two days after a Minnesota state court judge had issued a restraining order in a lawsuit brought by the Vikings players.
"The NFLPA has demonstrated that it is entitled to preliminary injunctive relief to preserve the status quo so that the Court can entertain a hearing on the merits of this complicated and contentious matter," Magnuson wrote.
The union has argued the NFL didn't properly inform players about what it knew about the product. The NFL's attorneys argued that claim, and others, had been considered and rejected in a process set out by the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Spokesmen for the NFL and the Vikings did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
The five players tested positive in training camp in July and August for the banned diuretic Bumetanide, which can be used as a masking agent for steroids. Diuretics are also used to shed weight quickly.
The drug was in the dietary supplement StarCaps even though the label did not list the diuretic as an ingredient.
In explaining his decision to extend the injunction, Magnuson wrote that the players union had shown it will likely succeed on its claims that the NFL breached its duty to the players by failing to share what it knew about StarCaps.
Another unresolved issue is whether Jeffrey Pash, the NFL's chief legal officer who upheld the five players' suspensions, was too partial to be an arbitrator.
"There we re two big issues that Judge Magnuson cited," Kessler said. "One is that the NFL very likely violated public policy because its own doctrine had a duty to tell the players of the risk they were at with [starCaps] after it was discovered. Two, the judge said it was improper for Jeff Pash to serve as an arbitrator when his own office was involved in the concealment."
Kevin and Pat Williams, who aren't related, are star defensive tackles for a Vikings team that is 8-5 and in first place in the NFC North. They play at Arizona on Sunday.
New Orleans, 7-6 and in last place in the NFC South, plays Thursday night at Chicago.