Judge orders an end to NFL lockout

April 26 2011 | Latest News
The NFL is a long way from playing football again — even if players are welcomed back to work with no lockout to stop them.

NFL players can go back to work _ for now

April 26, 2011, 7:27 a.m. CDT Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL is a long way from playing football again — even if players are welcomed back to work with no lockout to stop them.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson granted the players' request for an injunction to lift the lockout on Monday, ending the NFL's work stoppage in its 45th day but prompting an immediate notice from the league that it will appeal.

And players? They were told to show up ready for work — or workouts — on Tuesday.

Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay was holding a sheet of paper when he arrived at Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday morning. Kasay, who served as the team's union player representative before decertification on March 11, spent about 10 minutes inside the facility.

Asked why he showed up, Kasay said: "We're just walking through the process." He declined to answer further questions.

Bills safety George Wilson confirmed that the NFLPA emailed players after Nelson's ruling suggesting they show up at team facilities. He said players were told if they are denied access that teams would be in violation of the judge's ruling.

"We have received inquiry from a number of players and agents. We have simply responded and told them we don't see anything wrong with it," NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said in a text message to The Associated Press. "Players are organizing stuff on their own."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said any player who shows up at team facilities will be allowed in and "treated courteously and with respect."

"As soon as Judge Nelson lifted the lockout this afternoon, a number of my teammates called and asked me if they could return to work," Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said. "Basically, I told them I don't see why not."

Others weren't ready to go that far.

"The ruling created more questions than answers," said Kyle Vanden Bosch, a Detroit Lions player representative. "It seems like the dust still has to settle over the next couple of days."

Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, a free agent and one of the nine NFL players who are plaintiffs in the still-pending antitrust lawsuit against the league, said he was assured by NFLPA leadership that liability should not be a concern.

"We should feel free to try to get workouts in and try to resume any sort of normalcy that we had before," Leber said.

Things will be anything but normal — Leber called it the "Wild West" — for a while.

The NFL has filed a notice of appeal questioning whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. It also wants Nelson to put her ruling on hold to let the appeals process play out.

If the injunction is upheld, the NFL must resume business in some fashion.

It could invoke the 2010 rules for free agency, meaning players would need six seasons of service before becoming unrestricted free agents when their contracts expire; previously, it was four years. The requirement for restricted free agents would be four years rather than the three years before 2010. There also was no salary cap in 2010, meaning teams could spend as much — or as little — as they wanted.

All of this was in the background for this week's draft, which has a weird feel as teams prepped for picks without free agency or the ability to swap personnel.

Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said the pressure is on the league.

"They better act quickly, because as of right now there's no stay and, presumably, players could sign with teams," Quinn said. "There are no guidelines as of right now, so they have to put something in place quickly."