The United States Court of Appeals issued a ruling today affirming the district court's decision to allow Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to play in the 2009 season. This is big news for the 49ers because in week 3 they head up to Minnesota and now get to face the vaunted Williams' Wall that weekend. Conceivably the US Supreme Court could agree to hear an appeal, but given the timeline for that, a decision probably would not come down until well after the 49ers had played Minnesota.
The Williamses were suspended for taking the banned substance bumetanide and subsequently filed a lawsuit in state court asking that a judge void their suspensions, contending that the NFL's drug-testing procedures violate Minnesota workplace laws. The NFLPA sued in federal district court on their behalf, leading to this present decision.
The state trial still has to take place but this court of appeals decision basically allows the Williams to play while keeping the remains of the case in Hennepin County District Court. In that court the judge, Judge Gary Larson, has said he likely wouldn't force the Vikings defensive tackles into a civil trial during the coming season.
The big issue in this case, as explained by Mike Florio (a lawyer) at PFT:
The Minnesota Legislature has passed two drug-testing laws that operate separate and apart from the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players union. These statutes provide extra protections, and the CBA did not take the Minnesota laws into account.
Meanwhile, it's now incumbent on the NFL to insert language into the drug policies to close this loophole in the future. The NFLPA undoubtedly will want a concession in exchange for any such tweaks to the testing procedures.
Given the upcoming CBA negotiations, I'd imagine this is something that will definitely be addressed by the league. Or at least they will attempt to given that this gives the NFLPA a nice little bargaining chip.
Either way, it definitely doesn't improve the 49ers chances in week 3.