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Today promises to be one of the most confusing days in the history of the NFL, as players, coaches, and owners are left wondering how to behave following the lifting of the NFL lockout.Judge Susan Nelson ruled yesterday that the “lockout is enjoined.” However, there is still no Collective Bargaining Agreement, which means there are still no rules on how teams and players can operate with each other.
It’s up to the NFL to impose those rules, but they don’t want to do it until they get a clear legal ruling on the ongoing anti-trust lawsuit — something that can’t happened until an appeal is heard.
Meanwhile, if the players show up to work today, as the union officials have instructed them to do, the teams cannot (and will not) turn them away. But does that mean they have to work with them?
The leagues are advising teams to not open weight rooms, due to liability issues. (No one is sure if player contracts are enforceable right now.) They’re telling coaches to continue to not talk to players (which was never a legal condition of the lockout, but more of a company policy) or discuss contract negotiations.
So there won’t be any practices or organised workouts. There won’t be trades or free agents signings, since no one even knows who is a free agent and who isn’t. The owners aren’t sure what their legal obligations are, but if they don’t let players practice or workout, that could be seen as flouting Judge Nelson’s ruling, which would leave them in even more trouble.
It could be weeks or months before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a ruling or a stay of the injunction. Negotiations aren’t scheduled to resume until May. The Brady v. NFL anti-trust case could theoretically drag on for years.
Oh, and the Draft is in two days. So who knows what to make of that?
The bottom line is that all of this is a good sign for those hoping to see football in the fall. Breaking the lockout was a key step in the players’ strategy and would mean that the league cannot legally stop them from working when the time comes.
But that also means we’re about to experience that oddest, most confusing offseason in history. Even if there is an opening day, many of these issues may not be settled before then.
Meanwhile, beat writers all over the league are spending Tuesday, camped out at team facilities waiting to see what happens. Everyone else can’t wait to find out too…
UPDATE: Judge Nelson will consider the NFL’s request for a stay of the preliminary injunction (which would re-instate the lockout pending appeal), but has given the players until 9 a.m. on WEDNESDAY to mount a defence.
That means she won’t rule for at least another day (perhaps longer) which means the NFL appeal won’t reach the 8th Circuit until at least Thursday, which means nothing is getting solved before Thursday’s draft.
As for the players today: NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told ESPN Radio that some players have reported being denied access to team facilities, others have been allowed in, but not given access to workout rooms or some medical facilities. Most teams have given their strength coaches the day off.