If these are not fun times for football fans, they are captivating days for lawyers.
The NFL lockout is back in force after a short hiatus last week. A St. Louis appeals court could determine as early as today whether the league deserves a permanent stay of an injunction granted to the players in Minnesota to block the lockout.
“We are in uncharted but fascinating legal territory,” agent and attorney Ralph Cindrich said as he examined the short-term reinstatement of the lockout by three judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The owners’ lockout is temporary now; it can become permanent after the same three judges do a detailed review. If the lockout is reinstated, it puts the players down on points big.”
If it’s not, something Cindrich predicts, league business could resume almost immediately, even as more NFL appeals are filed. Cindrich thinks that even though those judges voted 2-1 Friday to review the matter, they won’t overturn Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s original determination that the lockout was preventing the players from earning a living.
With the draft behind them, the 32 teams can’t have contact with any players. That includes veterans along with rookies just selected. It also applies to undrafted free agents, who usually sign contracts hours after the seventh round concludes or the next day.
“You just do what you do and abide by the guidelines the league puts out,” Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. “Everybody’s in the same boat; we’re not stressing out or anything. It’ll eventually get settled and you just go with it.”
For the players, that means training on their own. For first-round picks, it means devouring the playbooks they were able to get from their teams during Friday’s short break in the lockout.
For coaches, it means evaluating how they addressed their needs in the draft, and deciding which undrafted players to approach when allowed to do so.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett has all his plans organized for offseason workouts and minicamps.
“What we did is we laid out the entire calendar for the offseason assuming there was no lockout,” Garrett said. “So all of those dates were in place soon after the season ended. But obviously we had to be responsive to the lockout and when the players came back, and we’ll continue to do that based on what the new rules are.”
Those rules are uncertain even if the players win the next round in the appeals court. Among the league’s options is reinstating the 2010 guidelines, which featured limited free agency and no salary cap.
With no minimum for spending, some owners fear profits will continue to decline.
HAWKS GRADE LOW
Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star doesn’t think much of the Seahawks’ 2011 draft.
In fact, only three teams got grades below a “C”: The Oakland Raiders’ were given a “D” and the Chicago Bears a “D-minus.” But Covitz saved his lowest mark for general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and the Hawks: an “F.”
Wrote Covitz: “The Sea-hawks started 10 different line combinations last year, so (James) Carpenter — a mild surprise in the first round — and (John) Moffitt are two big bodies who will form the right side of the line and try to improve a running game that ranked No. 31. But who’s going to play quarterback? (Linebacker K.J.) Wright fills a need, but there were better receivers on the board than (Kris) Durham, who was not invited to the (NFL scouting) combine.”