Earlier this week, the NFL and its players seemingly were making progress toward a new labor deal. "Secret" talks were held outside a courtroom or mediator's office for the first time since well before the previous collective-bargaining agreement expired in mid-March. Finally, there was a tangible reason to believe the league might reopen its doors and the 2011 season would be played as scheduled.
Then came Friday's legal skirmish that threw a soaking wet blanket on any such optimism.
If any progress is being made between the two sides, you would have never known Friday inside the Eighth Circuit of Appeals. That's where a three-judge panel heard arguments from the Brady v. NFL litigants about whether the lockout should be lifted.
During the process, lawyers fired many of the same shots that have fueled the stalemate between the NFL and its players.
"They want to eat the dinner but won't pay the bill" was the expression used by plaintiff attorney Ted Olson while describing the league's alleged mistreatment of players by imposing the lockout.
NFL attorney Paul Clement not only argued that the lockout should remain in place but that the court didn't need to set a deadline to lift it. Clement disputed the plaintiff argument that players are suffering "irreparable harm" as 20-plus current and former ones — including Cullen Jenkins — sat incredulously inside the 28th-floor courtroom.
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