Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled in favor of the players Monday, temporarily lifting the lockout, and the owners immediately filed an appeal that could reinstate it as early as Tuesday. Questions abound as to what will happen in the coming hours and days.
Monday's decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to grant an injunction to lift the NFL lockout was met with a cheer by NFL players. From those among the more fortunate few in the ownership realm of the NFL, Monday's granting of the injunction was tantamount to hitting a deep pothole at 80 mph.<,br>
As expected, the league immediately appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to request a stay of the decision. As the league's official website explained, "The hope is to avoid the beginning of free agency and the offseason programs with the potential that, if the 8th Circuit rules in its favor, the lockout could be reinstated in the coming weeks or months."
Not only is the league looking to stop a rush at the door of players under contract who want to say "Let us in!" with the lockout lifted, but it is also looking to stop the potential for a rogue owner firing the first shot on the free-agent battlefield.
Perhaps the best initial argument of the claims made in light of the decision – don't be fooled into thinking that attorneys for the players' side of the argument would have fired off the same amount of challenges had Judge Nelson upheld the lockout – is that she doesn't have the authority to grant injunction. In a statement released by the league, it is contending, "we believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes." If that contention is upheld, we won't be getting any closer to a resolution.
There are a lot of spinning plates going at the same time and the question facing owners – the losers Monday – is will they keep in lock-step in not signing free agents if, in fact, free agency has begun?
Right now, the league hasn't set the rules of free agency, so that isn't expected to happen. It could be a wild few days with uncertainty in several directions. But, if the owners stand firm and united, the court ruling may not have the impact some envision.
Will players show up for work? The fact that organized team activities aren't normally scheduled this close to the draft, that may work in the owners' favor, but this round of the Civil War has been won by the players and the owners are settling in for a continued battle.
In her decision, Judge Nelson referenced the Vikings and an agreement the team had reached with San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson in her granting of the injunction. Claiming that players would be irreparably harmed by a lockout, she referenced claims made by Jackson (one of the 10 players to file suit against the league) in the court filings. Jackson was a holdout because he was tendered a contract by the Chargers that was far short of market value. As part of her ruling, Nelson cited the contract agreed to with the Vikings – a two-year deal that would have paid Jackson a pro-rated portion of an $8 million deal in 2010 and $11 million this coming season. However, the Chargers refused to go along with the compensation package being offered. Jackson continued his holdout through the 10th week of the season, eventually signing and making just $281,000 the rest of the season.
Word is circulating that teams have been told to open their doors to players, but not open the weight rooms. Why else do players show up in the offseason? Just to play dominoes? It seems like opening the doors to a restaurant, but not allowing the grill to be fired up.
Welcome back, Chilly! While he didn't line up any new coaching gigs, former Vikings head coach Brad Childress will be bringing his wit to CBSSports.com this week – working with former players Dan Fouts and Randy Cross to break down the draft on a webcast for CBS. It will be interesting to hear Chilly's assessment of the Vikings, their future and their draft direction.
With many speculating the Vikings as being a team interested in trading down from the No. 12 spot in the first round Thursday, ESPN listed the Vikings as one of a half-dozen teams looking to trade up in the draft. It can only be imagined that, if there is any validity to that, Blaine Gabbert would almost have to be the player in question. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense, given the team's current lack of a third-round pick. If so, it could be a boring Friday for draftniks in Vikings Country.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.