Steelers safety Ryan Clark was on a conference call Friday afternoon with other union representatives and said afterward he is optimistic the longest labor stoppage in NFL history is close to getting settled.
Clark, the Steelers player representative, said NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA president Kevin Mawae and executive committee member Charlie Batch were on Friday's call.
Clark said he has been on conference calls at the end of the week for the past few weeks with Smith and other members of the NFLPA.
"The last few weeks have been very positive on the whole," Clark said Friday afternoon. "Both sides are actively pursuing a deal and getting this thing done. It's been very positive in all aspects.
"People on the outside are getting more optimistic the more the media talks about it, but for those of us on the inside, for those of us in the know, we've been excited."
On Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis threw out Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order to lift the lockout. Nelson had ruled the lockout was against federal law after players argued they were suffering irreparable harm.
The 8th Circuit put that order on hold, and its ruling Friday said Nelson ignored federal law in reaching her decision. The 8th Circuit's ruling does allow the players to go back to federal court in September and re-file their antitrust case.
In addition, rookies and all free agents can seek relief from Nelson through an evidentiary hearing to determine if the lockout applies to all players without contracts.
The news of the 8th Circuit's ruling came during negotiations between Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in New York.
"While we respect the court's decision, today's ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation," they said in a joint statement issued by the league and the NFLPA. "We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come and allow for a full 2011 season."
Clark does not believe the ruling will have a major impact on the negotiations.
"They didn't provide an injunction, but they never said it was lawful," Clark said of the 8th Circuit's ruling. "[The NFL owners] would still be subject to damages. So is it a total loss? No, not at all. We'd have to go back to court and file again.
"The lockout isn't lawful, and it's costing a lot of people money. We don't want to go that route. Hopefully, with the way talks have been going, they'll get this thing hammered out."
Clark is currently in Louisiana working out with other former Louisiana State University teammates. It is his job to update the Steelers and any other players around the league who want to know how things are going.
"The guys will call or text to find out what's going on," Clark said. "There are guys down here with me who are on other teams. It's not just about the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're all a family. That's my job to keep them updated. That's why I was elected to be a union rep. Some guys could not care less. They just want to work out and get ready for the season. But there are other guys who want to be in the know."
NFL players have been locked out since March 12. If a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, there likely will be a short free agency period before training camps open across the league. The first preseason game is the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, between the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears.
The Steelers didn't set a date for the start of this year's training camp because of the lockout. Their first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 12 at Washington.
Both sides are working to get a deal done by the end of next week because any missed preseason games will cost the owners and the players millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.