It's third and goal at the 9 yard line. Down 6-0 with 9 second remaining in the half, the NFL players turn to U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson to give them the lead. The judge drops back, scans the field, and delivers a strike to a wide open player in the back of the end zone as the first half expires. One extra point later and the players go into the break with the lead.
OK, maybe that's not entirely accurate, but the sentiment behind it is sound after Judge Nelson ordered an immediate end to the lockout Monday, siding with the players in their bitter fight with the owners over how to divide the $9 billion business. Citing concerns about the "irreparable damage" the lockout would do to NFL players, the judge made her decision in such a way, and in such a defining fashion, that she may be singlehandedly responsible for the return of football.
In her 86 page ruling, the judge notes with approval the sworn statements from veteran NFLPA attorney Richard Berthelsen and numerous players that players' careers are short due to the "ever-present risk of career-ending injury" and that "the loss of an entire year in a short professional athletic career cannot be recaptured and cannot be compensated by damages."
In the face of the ruling that clearly took the owners by surprise, the NFL responded by filing a notice of appeal questioning whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Later Monday night, they also filed a motion for an expedited stay, meaning it wants Nelson to freeze her ruling to let the appeals process play out. These motions, however, are considered a hail-mary attempt by the owners because of the way that Judge Nelson worded her ruling. In it, she makes her intentions clear in such a fashion that it will be next to impossible to refute.
So for now, the NFL is back in business, so let the head scratching begin.
With no CBA in place, there is confusion as to what teams can and cannot do now that the lockout has been lifted. Players are expected to start making appearances at facilities as soon as today, though it appears they won't be allowed in weight rooms. With the draft this week as well, the pressure is on the owners to get some stipulations in place regarding player signings and trades.
"They [owners] better act quickly, because as of right now there's no stay and, presumably, players could sign with teams," Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said . "There are no guidelines as of right now, so they have to put something in place quickly."
While this ruling doesn't immediately mean football is 100% back, it is a step in the right direction and is a move that all but forces owners to get a new CBA in place as soon as possible.
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