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8th Circuit Ruling Turns Up Heat

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8th Circuit Ruling Turns Up Heat

The 8th Circuit Court, in a somewhat surprising move, issued a ruling on the lockout this morning.

The surprise was not that the court ruled in favor of the NFL, which it did in declaring the lockout legal, but in the timing of the ruling. When both sides appeared in front of the court to make their oral arguments, the parting words from Judge Kermit Bye encouraged them to come to a resolution themselves as the eventual ruling would be one "neither side would like."

It would seem Bye was not kidding around.

While the ruling gives the league some additional leverage in their negotiations with the players by declaring the lockout legal and giving no opinion on when it should end, it also allows the players anti-trust suit to carry on, meaning the NFL is still exposed to the possibility of being hit with a monstrous verdict in the form of $12 billion or even more if the lockout is later found to be illegal.

One other nugget that comes in the ruling - rookies and free agents, as they do not have binding contracts with teams or the league, can not be locked out. The ruling stipulates that the lower court must have a hearing on the matter, so while no signings can be made at this time, teams are more or less free to contact these players. (Though one would assume owners will tell GMs and coaches to sit tight, I've got to think some enterprising teams will have been working the phones all day)

Shortly after the ruling was announced, both sides broke from mediation in Manhattan to asses what it meant to them. After a short respite, the NFL and the former players union issued this joint statement:

While we respect the court’s decision, today’s ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation. We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come, and allow for a full 2011 season.

The "full 2011 season" is, of course, music to fans ears.

Both sides realize the clock is ticking on many fronts. On the legal side, Judge David Doty has yet to award damages to the players after his March ruling that owners negotiated the last round of league TV contracts in bad faith. On the revenue side, the "pie" that both sides are trying to cut up will only grow smaller, by about $200 million a week, if preseason games start being missed.

All in all, things are still on target for a deal to be in place by July 15th, which has been a target date circled by the league when a deal would need to get done by for training camps to open on time.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (8) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

ZeroTolerance's picture

Good. These guys need a good kick in the ass.

MarkinMadison's picture

If rookies can't be locked out, I say let rookie camp begin on Monday.

Oppy's picture

Mark,

I believe the way it works is that players- be it undrafted rookie or veteran free agents, or players otherwise without a signed contract (like a drafted rookie who has not agreed to terms yet), can NOT be locked out because they are not, technically speaking, employed by the NFL currently.

This means the teams can freely deal with them- they can't be locked out because they are not locked in, so to speak.

The second a player signs a contract, however, they are now employees and subject to the lockout.

So for all intensive purposes, teams can go about interviewing, poking, proding, and generally carousing the free agents and other unsigned players. They must break off all communication as soon as the ink hits the contract, however.

PackersRS's picture

Can rookies work for the team without a signed contract? I think not.

packeraaron's picture

They do it every year during mini-camp...

PackersRS's picture

Hmn. I'm pretty sure I've heard about rookies holding out. Maybe it's training camp?

Anyway, there's no training camp or minicamp going on, not sure what the rules are in this case. But I doubt that 32 teams just dropped the ball, that they could've been working them out...

MarkinMadison's picture

Here's a link to the full decision. I think the majority bit off more than they needed to the reach their result, and more than they should have, but this is a football site, and I digress.

http://a.espncdn.com/photo/preview/!pdfs/110708/11-1898.pdf

Hmm... If the link does not work for you go to here http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=6748753 and click on the PDF of the decision.

jeremy's picture

That read wasn't quite as painful as I thought it would be.

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