A federal judge yesterday blocked the NFL from suspending five players for violating the league's anti-doping policy by using a banned diuretic, clearing the way for them to play tomorrow.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson in St. Paul, Minn., said he needed more time to consider the case after hearing several hours of arguments from the league and the NFL Players Association.

Magnuson gave no indication when he would issue his written ruling, but he noted that there was no evidence of steroid use by the players.

"We're not talking about steroids in this case. Period," he said.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings and Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints were suspended this week for four games each. They tested positive for a banned diuretic in the dietary supplement StarCaps.

The five players were suspended for four games for testing positive in training camp in July and August for the banned diuretic bumetanide, which can be used as a masking agent for steroids. Diuretics also are used to quickly shed weight.

The drug was in the dietary supplement StarCaps even though the label did not list the diuretic as an ingredient.

Meanwhile, the NFL suspended Tennessee reserve defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson for four games without pay starting yesterday for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

Vickerson's suspension will keep him out the rest of the regular season.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Matt Jones is awaiting an NFL decision on his suspension appeal after meeting Thursday with league officials in New York.

Jones, who was arrested in July on cocaine-possession charges, appealed the three-game suspension handed down earlier this season.

Shaun Ellis, a New York Jets defensive end who was arrested last Saturday for marijuana possession, still could be suspended by the NFL.

NFL fines.

Defensive ends Julius Peppers of Carolina and Jared Allen of Minnesota were fined $10,000 each by the NFL - Peppers for a late hit and Allen for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Tennessee tackle David Stewart was fined $7,500 for unnecessary roughness on a running play when he struck an opponent late in a Thanksgiving Day win over Detroit.

The NFL also handed out a $5,000 fine to Vikings cornerback Benny Sapp for hitting a Bears player in the head; $7,500 to Bears wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for a horse-collar tackle on Sapp after an interception; and $7,500 to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman for a horse-collar tackle on Bernard Berrian.

Seau unretires.

Junior Seau, 39, signed with the New England Patriots yesterday, coming out of retirement for the second time to help bolster his former team's injury-depleted defense.

Seau replaces Adalius Thomas, who was placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after breaking his left forearm Nov. 9 against Buffalo.