Chaos is ensuing as expected in this unique day in the history of the NFL. When Judge Susan Nelson ruled last night to lift the NFL lockout, I am not sure either she nor her clerks understood the confusion that would reign with her ruling. Appeals by the NFL have been made and hopefully this will sort out soon, but now things are a bit, shall we say, fluid.
Clearly, the NFL and the Players have different interpretations of what “lifting the lockout” means.” The NFL does understand that a failure to let players into their facilities would be violating a court order from Judge Nelson. Knowing they do not want to be held in contempt of court, they are opening their doors to the players. It appears, however, that that is all they are doing. The Players appear to believe that lifting the lockout gives them full access to the facility, for which they have been denied.
It is not clear who is directing the Players in this crazy time. Without a union in place, the NFLPA trade association is providing some guidance but we don't know how much. I have heard that some teams' Players representatives — from when the NFLPA was a union — are encouraging players to go in if they “need treatment or have a pressing issue” with team, otherwise to hold off. One representative told a player: “It's within your rights to go in. If you are turned away, we will have that in our pocket in the Brady case”
I have been told by several agents and players that many players are staying away because (1) they don't want to be seen as troublemakers by their clubs, and (2) they are enjoying their extended vacation.
Most of these clauses require 85-90% of participation in the program to receive the bonus. And, of course, no one knows how long the “program” will be this year. To protect their legal rights to that money, some players have gone into their facilities to stake their attempt to workout, only to be turned away. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, due $750,000 for 75% of the Jets' available workouts, is one such player.
Where do we go
The NFL has filed its request for an immediate stay of the injunction (keeping the lockout intact) with Judge Nelson. The Players' response is due tomorrow morning. Nelson should rule by late tomorrow. If she rules for the Players, the NFL will request an immediate appeal to the Eighth Circuit to stay the injunction, which could take a couple to a few days. Either way, it is unlikely we will have NFL business during the Draft this week.
One possibility is that Judge Nelson allows for a temporary stay of the injunction — a week perhaps — to allow the NFL to get its house in order and set up rules to operate by during this temporary period of litigation.
Again, none of this is about getting to court. We will not have the specter of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning being called to the stand and being cross-examined. This is simply about tilting the leverage in eventual negotiations for a new long-term agreement between the NFL and the Players. And the Players just got a tilt.
More to come, including a Q & A of the most common questions for tomorrow.
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