By TomE. Curran
Got chaos? Kinda. Since Judge Nelson's command that NFL owners lift the lockout and let players resume work immediately, confusion over what happens next has taken hold. "It's getting very complicated," one NFL executive told me Monday evening. What's complicated? Here's a little FAQ action for you. The answers? To be candid, some will be educated guesses. I'll let you know when I'm guessing. 1. Lockout lifted, can players go to work on Tuesday?
Yes. Unless and until there is a "stay" of Nelson's ruling pending appeal, her order to end the lockout is in effect. The NFL's Management Council has reportedly told teams to let in players who show up at the stadium but to keep them out of the weight rooms. Players, of course, would want to show up if they have fat offseason workout bonuses. There may be no offseason program to be present for, but it's possible they'll just show for effect just in case. There's a lot to process on the workout bonuses but that's the main reason players would want to be there. Put pressure on the owners to pay them or for the players to allege that the owners should. 2. When will the appeals court rule on whether or not to grant the "stay" Judge Nelson didn't?Dunno. The NFL immediately filed a request for the stay Monday night. ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson said, however, that the way Nelson worded her ruling, a stay by the appeals court seems unlikely. Judge Nelson mentioned the "public interest" several times in her 89-page ruling. My guess? The appellate court's decision on whether or not to grant a stay will come quickly as it's in the public interest to get this moving forward.3. Could the 2011 league year begin soon, meaning free agency starts?That's the biggest question for fans and the football branch of NFL teams (as opposed to the business branch). If the stay is refused, then it would logically follow that business as usual is supposed to begin under the 2010 league rules (no salary cap or floor, six years service for unrestricted free agency, no rookie wage scale, etc). The owners will want to delay thestart of the league year, especially this week. If free agency opens before the draft begins Thursday night, the football folks will be trying to acquire players on two fronts. And player trades - which were suspended during the lockout - would be in play on draft night. Now, this may not be in the best interest of the league as a whole. And it will be interesting if that's weighed by the courts. 4. What's this mean for your New England Patriots?Lots of meetings. Bill Belichick will not want to be caught sitting on his hands when the chance for player acquisition is upon his team. If there is no stay, one would have to expect Belichick to launch his free agency plan immediately. But would the sting of this ruling cause the Krafts to be bitter and reluctant to proceed as if the lockout is over, done and gone before the appeals process has run its course? In short . . . it's getting very complicated. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran