Costly challenge for Vikings' Kevin Williams

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams fought for 2 1/2 years to reverse an NFL suspension he considered unjust and his attorneys said was illegal. His endurance pushed the final discipline into a new and more nuanced era of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, but it ultimately cost Williams more money than if he had accepted the original (and longer) discipline.

So goes the upshot of Williams' two-game suspension to start the 2011 season, announced Friday by the league after Williams declined to continue pursuing his legal challenge. He was also fined an additional two game checks and will lose a total of $1.41 million as a result.

He will be eligible to return for the Vikings' Sept. 25 game against the Detroit Lions.

As you recall, Kevin Williams and former teammate Pat Williams were originally suspended four games during the 2008 season after they tested positive for a banned diuretic known as bumetanide. Both players insisted they ingested it unknowingly while using the now-defunct StarCaps diet supplement, but at the time, the league handed out the same discipline for diuretics -- which can be used as masking agents -- as it did for performance-enhancing drugs themselves.

The NFL's new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) calls for a two-tier discipline system that calls for two-game suspensions in cases of positive diuretic tests, accounting for the reduced duration of Williams' suspension. Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press first reported that change.

Presumably to make up for that reduction, the NFL tacked on the additional fine to bring Williams' total discipline equivalent to 4/17ths of his 2011 base salary. (League payroll is based on a 17-week season, including the bye.)

Had Williams served the four-game suspension in 2008 or 2009, when his base salary was $1 million, he would have lost $235,294. In 2010, when his base salary was $2.274 million, Williams would have lost $535,058.

The Vikings, of course, will benefit from the extra games even if Williams is playing them essentially for free. And, frankly, Williams could probably use the additional two weeks off to rest the plantar fasciitis condition that emerged this summer in his left foot. Letroy Guion figures as the Vikings' likely replacement starter. Rookie defensive tackle Christian Ballard had an impressive training camp and could see some time as well.

In the end, Williams essentially will have paid more than $1 million, plus legal fees, to get back two games of eligibility. I suppose you can partially credit him (and the NFL Players Association) for creating a better discipline system, but it came at a high personal price.