Super Bowl of Lockout Litigation

Friday is the big day, with the NFL and the players arguing their case in front of a three-judge panel at the appeals court St. Louis. "This one is important," Ted Olson, who will argue the case for the players, told

Although there is no guarantee of a 2011 NFL season, the league and its players are set for the Super Bowl.

Of litigation, that is.

Ted Olson and Paul Clement don't carry the same cache among football fans as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers or Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger. But how well both high-profile attorneys fare in a St. Louis circuit court Friday will go a long way toward determining whether those quarterbacks shall get the chance for a championship rematch.

Olson and Clement will each argue before a three-judge panel about whether the NFL should be forced to lift its player lockout as part of the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit. The decision, which isn't expected until at least late June, could prove the tipping point in stalled labor negotiations between the two parties.

With a favorable verdict, the NFL can continue to delay the start of its calendar year. Players cannot sign contracts, receive roster/workout bonuses or report to team headquarters. With paychecks set to get missed if regular season games are canceled, there will be increasing pressure upon player leaders to reach a new collective bargaining agreement or risk cracks in what has proven a unified front since the lockout began in mid-May.

The lifting of the lockout would force NFL teams to adopt a set of salary and personnel rules while welcoming players back into the fold. Even if the league and players don't agree to a long-term labor pact, there would be a far greater likelihood of the season starting on time as Brady v. NFL worked its way through the court system.

"This one is important," Olson told about the magnitude of the circuit court's ruling. "Whether or not the lockout is temporarily enjoined does not resolve the question of whether the lockout violates the antitrust law. That's going to be something that plays itself out further."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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