Posted on: April 25, 2011 8:14 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 12:07 pm

7 questions to ask now that lockout's lifted

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday, Judge Susan Nelson lifted the NFL's lockout, in a hefty, 89-page ruling that ended simply with the words "the 'lockout' is enjoined."

But what to make of a situation that could end up being even more chaotic than the initial period following the lockout itself ?

How about we answer that question with the old, seven-question format? Good? Good.

1. So we're getting football in 2011????
Not so fast, my friend -- despite the fact that the lockout being lifted is huge and breaking news and all that, this what everyone expected. When Judge Nelson spoke during the April 6 hearing, all reports indicated that she favored the players in terms of how she viewed the legal positions in this case. And, clearly, that was the truth, because Nelson lifted the lockout and didn't directly grant a stay for the owners despite doing so.

One thing's clear from Judge Nelson's ruling though: she understands that the public just wants football . While she recognizes that the players are suffering "irreparable harm" because of the lockout, she also titled a chunk of opinion as "The Public Interest Does Not Favor The 'Lockout'." This is good to keep in mind when wondering whether or not anyone has the public in mind amid all this, because Judge Nelson clearly does.

And that's good news when hoping for football to happen in 2011.

2. Okay, but what happens next?
The NFL's already said it will request a "stay" of Judge Nelson's ruling. That means the league will ask her to hold off on her lockout ruling so that the defendants in this matter can file an appeal with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. If Judge Nelson grants that stay, we go back to the state of limbo we were in before Monday's ruling.

If Judge Nelson denies that stay, the NFL will request a stay from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Same deal applies here: if the Court of Appeals grants that stay, it's limbo time until the court rules as to whether or not Nelson correctly lifted the lockout.

If the Court of Appeals denies that stay (following Nelson's theoretical denial), the NFL would likely be forced to open its doors and impose some rules for the current players. Except for the fact that, per Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal , the Eighth Circuit could actually rule on an emergency stay by Friday. 

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3. There's still going to be a Draft on Thursday, though, right?

How nice that you still care! But, yes, there will still be an NFL Draft and, barring something really, really, really odd from happening, it'll still kick off on Thursday and teams will still make selections (though, as you'll see below, they probably won't be making some of the deals you've seen in the past).

There's too much at stake in terms of broadcast partners and timing and travel and whatnot to alter the Draft; plus, it was going on whether or not the lockout was lifted in the first place.

Perhaps now hopeful fans will simply be more interested.

4. So players can't go to the stadium and start working out yet?
Actually, they can, at least between Nelson's ruling and her decision Tuesday on the stay. Or, at least, they can try  to go work out. After all, the lockout no longer exists, and it would be a murky labor situation for teams to deny their non-unionized employees access to facilities provided by an employer for team activities.

In fact, reports have begun to surface that agents are telling their players to go to team facilities and work out so as to make sure they can't be denied any offseason workout bonuses that are included in their contracts. Our own Mike Freeman has reported he's heard some agents telling their players NOT to show up, so it could be a mixed bag.

Adding fuel to that fire is Steelers' player rep Ryan Clark, who said on television Monday night that he's "telling guys to go [to team facilities]" and "telling guys to get to work." Yes, things could get awkward when/if players show up and aren't allowed into the team building.

5. What about free agents -- can my team sign them?
Theoretically, it would be possible. But remember, the players in Brady v. NFL  aren't just suing the NFL, they're also suing the individual teams. Don't expect Marty Hurney to run out and ink Matt Hasselbeck to a deal just because the Panthers desperately need a quarterback.

His boss, Jerry Richardson, probably wouldn't be too thrilled with him breaking rank and signing a free agent. Besides, there are no rules for the current NFL season that hasn't started yet, so it's kind of impossible to even determine who is and who isn't a free agent until the NFL decides to impose those rules. (Although, if you want to see who who will most likely be free agents, my colleague Andy Benoit did an excellent job of compiling such a list right here .)

Which it won't do until it's exhausted all opportunities to receive a stay. Where this gets interesting, though, 

6. I really want the Eagles to land another first-rounder? Can they trade Kevin Kolb?
Same rules apply as with free agents: nothing until the NFL exhausts its options in seeking a stay of the injunction and imposes a set of rules.

The issue of trades might be a bit less murky than with free agency, because trades, theoretically, can benefit teams more so than they do the players (obviously a lot of teams would like a crack at the aforementioned Kolb BEFORE the draft). But, if the league decided to allow trades, they'd probably be conceding that a stay doesn't matter and would need to start signing free agents.

Since not signing the big pile of available free agents would amount -- or at least appear to amount -- to collusion, it's unlikely you'll see either one happen until the issue of a potential stay gets sorted out.

7. You keep saying a "set of rules" -- what rules will those be?
The common belief is that the NFL, if it cannot get a stay, will impose the 2010 rules on the new league year.

That means that there won't be a salary cap and it'll take six years to get to free agency. As referenced above, that dramatically changes the players who will be available to other teams, and you should reference Andy's post to see who will likely be available. But, we can't know what set of rules are actually applied until their applied.

Which means, as with much else, we're stuck waiting on the courts once again.

Which leaves us right back where we started, really. Remember back when we did "7 Questions fans should ask about the lockout " thing? (Seems like YEARS, doesn't it?) Well, I closed by saying that "leverage" was critical for both sides.  

And that's still the case. Leverage just happens to have shifted (heavily, I might add) in the direction of the players right now. Should the NFL receive a stay, though, that leverage tilts back in towards the league's direction, at least for the moment.

For now, we sit back and wait for the legal system to make rulings on the issues at hand. Once they do, things will be somewhat clearer, but thinking that the NFL labor issues are behind us is a little more naive than anyone should be, even in the face of the positive emotions coming from some corners following Judge Nelson's ruling.

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Posted on: April 25, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 6:56 pm

NFL has free agent quandary with lockout lifted

Posted by Will Brinson

As you may have heard, the NFL lockout has been lifted. Now, hell breaks loose in terms of free agency in the NFL. Well, it will soon anyway -- once the NFL imposes a set of rules (presumably, the ones from 2010) in which the offseason should operate. Don't expect that to happen until after the NFL has maxed out its appeal/stay options. 

The problem that presents itself for the owners is that they're in a bit of a catch-22 here, because for legal purposes, they don't want to find themselves colluding against the very players ... who sued them for collusion.

See, there are a pile of free agents -- more than 500 of them -- out there who would really like to start negotiating contracts with teams. And those teams, or at least the guys who run the football operations of the teams, would probably like to start signing players in order to fill holes on their roster. (Especially those teams with quarterback needs.)

However, the teams are also named defendants in the Brady v. NFL case, which means the folks who run the business side of things are unlikely to be extremely thrilled about any sort of cooperation with the players until said lawsuit is resolved.

If -- and again, this is predicated on no stay being granted -- the NFL institutes last year's rules, the season "begins" and for some reason none of those free agents are signed, it would lend great credence to the allegations that there's collusion taking place between the teams.

That won't necessarily happen, though it's absolutely a possibility.

Which means the NFL and its teams needs to tread carefully in order to avoid compromising themselves in the anti-trust lockout that will sit in the background regardless whether or not the "football season" begins.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 25, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 6:01 pm

Nelson rules in favor of players, lifts lockout

Posted by Andy Benoit

The much-awaited ruling from Federal Judge Susan Nelson in the Brady v NFL case finally came in late Monday. As expected, Nelson ruled in favor of the players. Nelson is lifting the lockout.

The owners were seeking an immediate stay, but NFL Network's Albert Breer reports that Nelson declined. Thus, the owners will seek a stay from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in St. Louis. If they don't get the appeal granted, free agency could begin soon.  

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 25, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 3:38 pm

Brady v. NFL stipulation of time agreed on, again

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL-loving world waits on this Monday for news from Judge Susan Nelson as to whether or not the lockout will be lifted. While we wait on that ruling, though, CBSSports.com has learned that the two parties in Brady v. NFL have agreed to a second stipulation to extend the time in which the NFL (and therefore any subsequent defendants in the case) has to answer the plaintiffs' complaint.

This stipulation extends the time answer thru May 23, 2011.

However, that does not mean we won't get a Order from Judge Nelson this afternoon on the "lockout ruling" -- in fact, we still could.

What this does mean is that Judge Nelson is significantly more likely to issue a stay against the beginning of the NFL's season, which means it's unlikely that free agency, etc., will begin before the draft.

The timing of this sort of thing is never coincidental -- a few weeks ago, we also reported a stipulation that extended the time to answer thru April 27, 2011. As we said then, it was likely Judge Nelson would issue a ruling before that date, and it appears that's exactly what will happen now.

The May 23 date, in all likelihood, is designed to give at least a one-month stay in the time with which the NFL can appeal the ruling (or, should Judge Nelson rule in favor of the league, a time in which the players can appeal).

Having a finalized outcome relating to the "Lockout Ruling" is critical to the progress of this case, and therefore necessary before the defendants can proceed with their answer.

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Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 2:45 pm

Hall of Fame RB Joe Perry dies at age 84

Posted by Will Brinson

Hall of Fame running back Joe "The Jet" Perry, who played 16 years in the NFL, died on Monday morning at the age of 84.

Perry, who played 14 of his 16 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and, when he retired, was the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

A member of the All-Decade team for the 1950's Perry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

"All of us here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Joe Perry," commented Pro Football Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry. "Joe was not only a key figure in the history of professional football, but he was a great friend to us here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a frequent visitor to Canton for our annual Enshrinement ceremony as well as many other Pro Football Hall of Fame events. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Donna and the entire Perry family."

Perry tallied 9,723 rushing yards in his career, made three Pro Bowls and led the 49ers in rushing for seven consecutive seasons.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 25, 2011 9:41 am

Roger Goodell took an HGH test recently

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell and the NFL have made it clear that one thing which will be needed in a new labor agreement is HGH testing.

This is a tough sell, because a) players don't like drug testing in the first place and b) HGH testing, in order to really be accurate, typically needs a blood sample, and players aren't exactly eager to hand that over to the league.

Give credit, then, to Goodell, who apparently put his money where his mouth is and got tested himself last week.

"I just had my HGH tested in the last couple of weeks," Goodell told Jarrett Bell of USA Today. "I wanted to see what was involved in the testing. They came in here at 9:30 in the morning, completely unannounced, and I went through the procedure. The same one our players would go through."

Now, the players will likely argue that it's not a huge deal for Goodell to take the test because he's not subject to any sort of fines or suspensions, and because he's not handing over heretofore unknown medical knowledge to his employer.

Goodell refused to disclose whether or not his test came back clean because of "confidentiality," but added that he was "proud of my results."

So either he passed or he REALLY likes HGH, I guess. Probably the former.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 21, 2011 5:29 pm

The 70 breakaway players can't file suit yet

Posted by Andy Benoit

The 70 or so “mid-tier” NFL players who are seeking their own representation in Brady v. NFL will have to find another law firm if they want to get in on the labor negotiating action. The law firm they chose already represents the NFL Network and NFL Films in music licensing.

Thus, the law firm needed to get a waiver from the league granting them permission to represent the players. Danieal Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reports that the league has decided not to grant that waiver.

The NFL said, "We notified the law firm that while we do not know the specifics of the claims or the players who would be involved, we cannot consent to the firm’s request to grant a waiver. As a matter of policy, we do not believe it is appropriate to consent to firms bringing suit against the NFL while simultaneously representing league entities even on unrelated matters."

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 10:25 pm

Goodell: NFL 'planning on playing a full season'

Posted by Will Brinson

In these troubling times of NFL labor strife, good news and optimism are hard to find. So it's nice to hear Commissioner Roger Goodell provide a glimmer of hope.

Goodell, speaking with Giants' season-ticket holders on Tuesday, said that the NFL is "planning on playing a full season."

"We're planning on playing a full season and we're going to negotiate as hard as we can to get that done,” Goodell said, per Zach Berman of the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "You obviously have to be prepared if you’re unsuccessful. But I don't like to focus on that. I like to focus on being successful. There’s a lot at risk for everybody involved, most importantly for you as fans."

The pessimist in me thinks a little differently though: the only reason that a silver lining shines in the first place is because a grey cloud exists.

And that grey cloud is pretty obvious in this place, and it's something that Goodell referenced -- football might not exist, and the NFL is prepared for that.

That's not to dog the Commish, because he's got to be honest in this situation, and he does a good job of being optimistic about the situation without completely sugarcoating things for fans.

Plus, there's actually a pretty good chance -- despite the nightmare that's going down right now -- of football taking place, even if that doesn't mean there's any sort of guarantee.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com