SBD/April 29, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch: League Set To Open For Business Without 8th Circuit Ruling

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule Thursday night on the NFL’s request for a temporary stay of a lower court’s order to lift the lockout, paving the way for the beginning of the opening of the NFL’s offseason. The clerk for the 8th Circuit, Michael Gans, e-mailed Thursday night that there would be no order “tonight.” Surely still on the table is a permanent stay, but the earliest the court would rule on that is early next week. It is unclear if the 8th Circuit could still rule on the temporary stay. As the league is not planning to usher in free agency immediately, the court could still rule on Friday and the league would possibly not have the allegedly irreparable harm it claims starting free agency poses if the lower court’s order is later over turned. At 8:00am ET Friday morning, players were able to report to team facilities and work out and meet with coaches. The players’ counsel had asked the 8th Circuit if it would hold off on ruling on the temporary stay until after it files a brief at 1:00pm Friday. The league responded if the court waited that long it was in effect denying the temporary stay (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO? In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports legal experts believe that there is "far from any guarantee the league will get that stay from the appeals court, and indeed, the owners’ entire legal strategy appears to be blowing up in their faces with each withering decision." But if the owners are "reconsidering that strategy, there appeared to be no public sign of second thoughts" (N.Y. POST, 4/29). Also in N.Y., Judy Battista notes the temporary stay, if granted, "would allow the NFL to slam the doors shut again as the appeals court considers a request for a longer stay that would cover the length of the league’s appeal of the injunction decision." The league "has sought to buy time since Nelson issued the injunction Monday evening." The NFL "did not want to have to start free agency during the draft, because that might have allowed player trades during some rounds, but not others." While it would "clearly have preferred not to do so, the NFL said it would probably announce rules governing the business of football -- including when free agent signings and trades could begin -- some time Friday." Teams and agents "were preparing Thursday as if free agency would start on Monday, after the draft ends on Saturday." One agent said that GMs "had told him that they were waiting for a sweeping edict from the league office about what they were allowed to do" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29).   

UNCERTAINTY ABOUT NFL SYSTEM: ESPN.com's John Clayton noted the NFL's decision on which system teams can use in the short term "will be important." For example, the league "could use the 2010 rules, under which free agency can't be obtained until a player has been in the league for six years." If it uses the '10 rules, the NFL "won't have a salary cap," but if it uses the '09 rules, a salary cap could be included. The league also has not revealed "whether players can receive their offseason roster bonuses" (ESPN.com, 4/28). In Minneapolis, Mark Craig notes players "will be paid $130 per day for meeting workout requirements, and such workouts will count toward any offseason workout bonuses a play may have." Players can "work out on their own, but they must prove they have an existing medical insurance policy in place" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/29).

Clark says NFL needs to start free agency
JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY?
NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reports "several top agents are advising their clients to prepare to truly hit the free-agent market Monday, which is when they expect the league year to open" (NFL.com, 4/29). NFL player agent Jason Chayut said that he "was dismayed that the NFL waited until Thursday -- after getting Nelson's decision Monday -- to comply with a court order." He added, "But now that we are where we are, I can't say it's logical to have free agency right now" (Baltimore SUN, 4/29). Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark said, "It's a positive step for us and a positive step for getting guys on the field. But if the NFL isn't going to let free agency start, it's still not enough" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/29). Texans OT and player rep Eric Winston: "It's exciting, but obviously, it’s still not over. It’s very interesting, though. I want to see what rules are put in place, what they (owners) intend on doing" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/29). 

STOP WHERE YOU ARE: Titans G & player rep Jake Scott arrived at the team's Baptist Sports Park on Thursday "to find armed security officers in the parking lot and a barricade of portable lockers set up to prevent entry into the weight room." Scott: "I guess we pose a threat. I guess they think we are going to storm the building or something." Scott said that Titans Senior Exec VP & General Counsel Steve Underwood "turned him away, so he headed to Vanderbilt to work out there instead" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/29). Scott deemed the security "excessive" in a text message to NFLPA President and former Titans teammate Kevin Mawae, who said that "barricades blocked off the weight room." Mawae: "It might be easier to get into Libya these days" (USA TODAY, 4/29). Also Thursday, Redskins LB Lorenzo Alexander and C Casey Rabach "were turned away" at Redskins Park, while Lions players "were told to come back Monday, and that organized team activities would start Wednesday." In DC, Maske & Shipley note the NFL "told teams to courteously turn away players, maintaining that it could not conduct business without an organized plan" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/29).

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT? Longtime Eagles S Quintin Mikell, currently a free agent, said that he visited the team's NovaCare Training Complex Thursday. Mikell said that he spoke briefly with Eagles GM Howie Roseman, "at more length with new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, and even bumped into" head coach Andy Reid in the parking lot. Mikell said he and Reid talked about "everything that's happened, and how nobody knows what's going on." He added, "It was cool. It was a little weird, like a ghost town" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/29). However, on Long Island, Glauber & Rock note it is "uncertain just how many players will return to their facilities." Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara said that he is "telling teammates not to show up yet." O'Hara: "If you're in the area and the stay is not granted and you want to go over and work out, great. But don't change your plans. Don't book a flight tonight. Because it may change" (NEWSDAY, 4/29). Agent Angelo Wright said that he "has told clients under contract not to worry about visiting headquarters this weekend out of fairness to the teams so they can focus on the draft." He said that they "should plan to show up on Monday, and said he'd start calling team executives about unsigned players as soon as Sunday night." Agent Drew Rosenhaus, however, said that he would "like for signings and trades to take place during the draft" (ESPN.com, 4/29).

KEEP MOVING THE CHAINS: In N.Y., Steve Serby writes, "Nice to have you back, NFL. Now don't desert us. ... Now that you are back in business, stay back in business. There must be no turning back now." The NFL "cannot let free agency begin -- albeit awkwardly, after the draft -- then stop the music and leave everyone standing in the dark with no chair on which to sit." Fans do not have "any interest in watching" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith at a press conference, nor do they want to "read an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal" from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Serby: "It must now only be about Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady throwing passes to teammates" (N.Y. POST, 4/29).
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