The NFL has been very quiet in response to Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling denying a stay of the order lifting the lockout pending appeal. And for good reason. Given the content of the 20-page opinion, it seems clear that the lockout should end immediately — and in turn that the 2011 league year should begin, with free agency, trades, and all other transactions.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has forwarded to PFT a statement indicating that the league is taking the order seriously. Very seriously.
“We are filing tonight a request with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending our appeal,” Aiello said. “We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented. We have asked the Court of Appeals to consider on an expedited basis both our request for a stay and the appeal itself. We are evaluating the District Court’s decision and will advise our clubs in the morning on how to proceed.”
The safest course would be to start the 2011 league year right now, pursuant to rules that the league should have selected weeks ago, if not longer. Anything short of that will create a very real risk of a finding that the league is, and has been, in contempt of court.
That said, we’re not sure that veteran free agents should want the market to open until the teams have a chance to digest the rules, assess their needs, and set their budgets. Still, the process should be starting now, with visits being lined up and offers being constructed and negotiations commencing.
As to the draft itself, trades should be expanded to include players under contract. And other trades should be permitted as well.
Soon, we’ll know more about the course the league has chosen. It’s safe to say that a lot of money, and possibly more than a few careers, could be riding on this one.