NFL Lockout: Judges, lawyers hold all the cards
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NEW YORK -- If these are not fun times for football fans, they are captivating days for lawyers.
The NFL lockout is back in force after a short hiatus last week. A St. Louis appeals court could determine as early as today whether the league deserves a permanent stay of an injunction granted to the players in Minnesota to block the lockout.
"We are in uncharted but fascinating legal territory," Pittsburgh agent and attorney Ralph Cindrich said as he examined the short-term reinstatement of the lockout by three judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "The owners' lockout is temporary now; it can become permanent after the same three judges do a detailed review. If the lockout is reinstated, it puts the players down on points big."
If it's not, something Cindrich predicts, league business could resume almost immediately, even as more NFL appeals are filed. Cindrich believes that even though those judges voted 2-1 Friday to review the matter, they won't overturn Judge Susan Richard Nelson's original determination that the lockout was preventing the players from earning a living.
With the draft behind them, the 32 teams can't have contact with any players. That includes veterans along with rookies just selected. It also means undrafted free agents, who usually sign contracts hours or the next day after the seventh round concludes.
"You just do what you do and abide by the guidelines the league puts out as we go along," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "Everybody's in the same boat; we're not stressing out or anything. It'll eventually get settled and you just go with it."
Going with it for the players means training on their own. For first-round picks, it means devouring the playbooks they were able to get from their teams during a short break Friday in the lockout.
For coaches, it means evaluating how they addressed their needs in the draft, and which undrafted players they might approach when allowed to do so.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett has all his plans organized for offseason workouts and minicamps.
"What we did is we laid out the entire calendar for the offseason assuming there was no lockout," Garrett said. "So all of those dates were in place soon after the season ended. But obviously we had to be responsive to the lockout and when the players came back, and we'll continue to do that based on what the new rules are."
First Published May 2, 2011 12:00 am