ST. PAUL, Minn. - Anyone hoping for a speedy end to the NFL's nearly month-long lockout had better be prepared to wait a while longer.
After Wednesday’s five-hour hearing on a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout by several current and former players suing the NFL on antitrust grounds, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said she will rule “in a couple weeks” whether to grant the request.
Regardless of how Nelson rules, the case is expected to be appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which means a final ruling might not come until June.
Nelson extended an invitation for both sides to continue discussions under her auspices between now and her ruling, although it appears unlikely there would be more talks before her ruling.
Nelson heard arguments from player attorneys Jim Quinn and Michael Hausfeld, as well as NFL attorney David Boies, a prominent antitrust litigator who has been involved in some of the biggest cases in recent years, including United States v. Microsoft.
Quinn contended the lockout should be lifted because the players were suffering “irreparable harm” by not being able to sign contracts and train for the 2011 season at team-owned facilities. He also said that because the NFL Players Association dissolved on March 11 and was no longer a union, the NFL couldn’t impose a lockout, which can be used only when a union exists in a collective bargaining relationship with owners.
“We’ve done what we’re allowed to do under the law,” Quinn said of the decertification process. “We need to get this lockout lifted as quickly as possible and get these players back playing.”
The players, who include quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as well as Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and six others, want the league’s lockout, which began March 12, to end and the NFL to resume operations. Also joining the lawsuit were retired players Carl Eller of the Minnesota Vikings and Priest Holmes of the Kansas City Chiefs, who had filed a separate lawsuit claiming the lockout was illegal.
Nelson suggested the two sides resume federally mediated talks during her period of deliberation, although she did not order it.
“It seems to me both sides are at risk and this is a very good time for you to come back to the table,” she said.
Attorneys for the players are willing to resume talks, but only if they involve settling the antitrust litigation. The NFL’s attorneys argue, however, that they want to resume mediated collective bargaining talks in Washington, D.C., that had previously lasted 16 days before ending on March 11.
TITANS, KIFFIN SETTLE
The Tennessee Titans settled their lawsuit with the University of Southern California over Trojans coach Lane Kiffin hiring away Titans assistant Kennedy Pola just before training camp last July.
The Titans and USC announced in a joint statement that settlement terms were private, but called them “amicable.” The lawsuit is expected to be dismissed in weeks.
Then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher said losing Pola forced him to revamp his staff, and the Titans couldn’t fill the spot before the 2010 season. Tennessee went 6-10, and Fisher left in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.