On Monday, Judge Susan Richard Nelson released an extensive ruling (89 pages!) that decreed the NFL lockout be lifted. Immediately there was talk of free agency suddenly beginning, players going to their facilities on Tuesday to work out and contact between teams and players now being allowed. There was also immediately a lot of confusion about what this all means, and that still seems to be the case as everybody tries to figure out what to do next.
The NFLPA sent out an email that basically told players to show for work if they want to since the NFL can't lock out the players based on Judge Nelson's ruling. Some agents are instructing players with workout bonuses to go to their team facility as if nothing was wrong in order to work out and collect the bonus. The NFL's management council, according to Adam Schefter, has instructed teams to let players in, but it also recommended not letting anyone into the weight room.
There is a whole lot of confusion and chaos brewing over this decision. As a result, Kyle Vanden Bosch has decided to take a wait-and-see approach. He is the Lions' players representative, and he seems to have the right attitude about this situation.
"I don’t want to put the players or the team in a situation that we don’t want to be in," Vanden Bosch said. "I don’t want to tell guys to go and find out that we really can’t workout there. I’m just kind of telling everybody to, at least for tomorrow, do what you were going to do until I get more information about what we can and can’t do. Just kind of hold tight a little bit."
I'm no lawyer, so this is all fairly confusing to me. I'm sure it is just as confusing for most of you, so first things first I would suggest reading Lestor Munson's article on ESPN about this ruling and what it means. The piece cleared up a lot of questions I had, and I'd like to highlight two of them:
What happens next?
The owners have asked for a "stay of execution" on the injunction order. A stay is simply a delay in the time the injunction takes effect. A stay in this situation would keep the lockout in effect until the owners complete an appeal of the decision Nelson made Monday. The owners' attorneys will argue Nelson should issue a stay to allow them to preserve the status quo and to appeal her decision. A stay is frequently granted in similar situations. If Nelson does not grant the stay, the owners' attorneys will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to issue a stay that would continue the lockout.
If there is no lockout, what rules govern the relationship between the players and the owners? What, for example, is the definition of free agency now?
These are good questions, and there are no answers at this point. If the owners fail in their attempts to obtain a stay of the order Nelson entered Monday, the owners might try to impose new rules. Or they might try to negotiate a new deal with the players. Or they might try to do both. It's likely that they will try to do both.
Basically, the next step in this is for the owners to seek a stay from Judge Nelson. If that stay is denied, the owners will then seek a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. If that stay is also denied, then things will really get interesting, as decisions will have to be made about free agency and things like that since the lockout will technically be over.
As far as a timeline for all of this goes, I'm really not too sure. I've read in some places that owners should find out about a stay rather quickly, but like I said before, I'm no lawyer. It's not clear to me how quickly something like this will move forward. At the very least, I'd hope that free agency is held off until next week if both of the NFL's stays are denied. Free agency suddenly beginning just as the NFL Draft is about to start would really complicate things, and there's no telling just how wild this situation could get.
UPDATE: Tom Kowalski reports that as of 8:30 a.m., no Lions players had shown up to the facility in Allen Park.