The upshot of Thursday's Williams Wall ruling: The long-discussed case will go to trial in Minnesota state court in less than a month.
Hennepin County judge Gary Larson set a March 8 trial date, ruling that Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams should have an opportunity to prove the NFL violated at least one Minnesota state labor law by suspending them for four games in December 2008. Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune and Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press have more details.
At issue in the Larson trial will be whether the players are legally employed by the NFL or the Vikings. The Vikings issue players' paychecks, but the NFL administrates the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.
I'm no legal expert, but I'm stopping way short of saying we are nearing an end to this imbroglio. There will be broad implications no matter who wins the case, making an appeal likely even if it goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But for the purposes of tracking this case in plain language, we can at least expect a significant development next month. If the players lose their case and exhaust all appeals by the summer, a scenario impossible to predict at this point, they will be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.