A Minnesota judge yesterday temporarily blocked the NFL's suspension of Vikings stars Kevin and Pat Williams for violating the league's anti-doping policy, but the players' status for Sunday's game at Detroit remained uncertain.

Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson issued the temporary restraining order at the players' request, saying he wanted more time to hear arguments in the case. No further hearing date immediately was set.

The Williamses were among six players suspended for four games for testing positive for a diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for steroids. They have argued that the substance containing the diuretic didn't list all its ingredients, and that league scientists and lawyers had information about the substance but withheld it from players.

The NFL argues that the league's policy on banned substances is collectively bargained with the players' association and that players are responsible for what is in their bodies.

Both Kevin and Pat Williams, who are not related, sat in the courtroom with their lawyers for yesterday's hearing, which lasted more than 2 hours. Both declined comment afterward.


* Dallas coach Wade Phillips allowed four 30-something starters, including Terrell Owens, to skip practice so that they'd be fresher for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.

Owens, Greg Ellis, Flozell Adams, Zach Thomas and Marc Colombo were given off.

"I just think it's the time of year . . . we need to take a look at resting some of these guys, take them off their feet," Phillips said.

* Tennessee backup quarterback Vince Young sat out practice with an infection in his right thumb. Coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans will not let him throw for a couple days to let the injury heal.

* Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn had two pins surgically inserted into his broken right index finger and said he hopes to begin throwing once they are removed next month. He suffered the injury in a game at Buffalo on Nov. 17.

* Indianapolis middle linebacker Gary Brackett is expected to miss at least two games with a cracked bone in his lower right leg. He suffered the injury Sunday against Cleveland.

* Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer plans to test his right elbow in the next few days, giving him a better idea of whether he will need reconstructive surgery.

In another matter, the Bengals signed veteran linebacker Victor Hobson, a St. Joseph's Prep product.

* Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis will miss the rest of the season after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Monday at Houston.

* New England shored up its injury-riddled linebacker corps by signing veteran free agent Rosevelt Colvin. New England linebackers Adalius Thomas, Eric Alexander and Pierre Woods are sidelined with injuries. *