The NFL may have to pin its hopes on the Eighth Circuit Court in St. Louis, which might end up making the final decision on the fairness of the league's lockout of its players. That decision could determine the eventual outcome of the league's current labor unrest.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson ruled on Monday in favor of a suit by NFL players seeking an injunction against a lockout of players imposed by the league on March 11. In some NFL cities, players reported to team facilities on Tuesday. Packers President Mark Murphy told packers.com that no players reported to the team's Lambeau Field headquarters.
"If the players had shown up today, we would've invited them in. I would've sat down with them and explained the situation, that we filed a motion and we're waiting to hear back from the judge," Murphy said.
Murphy said the league wasn't caught off guard by Nelson's ruling.
"It wasn't a surprise, the ruling, particularly from the questions she asked during the hearing. It gave us an indication she was going to rule in favor of the players. We thought she would grant the injunction but stay it pending the appeal," Murphy said. "The key issue is she determined de-certification by the union was legitimate and immediate."
The players are to respond to Nelson's ruling by Wednesday morning and they are expected to claim they are being harmed and they need to get back to work immediately. Nelson did not provide back-to-work guidelines on Monday.
"I think she'll grant the stay. If she denies the stay, we'll immediately appeal to the circuit court. We should get a decision by the end of the week on whether she grants the stay," Murphy said.
Should Nelson grant a stay, the lockout would go back into effect and the case would move up to the Eighth Circuit Court; a decision could be expected in 4-8 weeks. Thirteen of the 16 Eighth Circuit Court judges were appointed by Republicans and are thought to be pro-business.
In the event that Nelson doesn't grant a stay on Wednesday and enforces Monday's injunction, Wednesday would effectively become the first day of the league year. It likely would be according to the 2010 rules, which did not provide for a salary cap. Free agency would begin immediately.
That could create a tumultuous situation later should the Eighth Circuit Court rule in favor of the league's appeal and re-instate the lockout.
"We feel it would create unnecessary chaos," Murphy said. It's the reason Murphy believes Nelson will grant a stay on Wednesday.
Murphy also believes both sides would live by the decision of the Eighth Circuit Court, which would likely trigger more serious negotiations between the league and its players.
"It's important as a league that we get this right. Getting it right is absolutely having a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement," Murphy said. "The agreement we signed in 2006 was too one-sided. There was a feeling that we needed labor peace at all cost. That's where we are now; trying to correct a one-sided situation."