League will open doors but not yet for business

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2011 - 12:06 AM

Players can return to team facilities on Friday, but the NFL will wait on free agency, trades until an appellate court acts.

The NFL still isn't taking no for an answer.

While the league agreed to unlock its facilities to players beginning Friday morning, it held off on free agency and player trades in hopes the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis grants a stay of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order to lift the lockout.

In filing two motions, the league asked for a permanent stay pending an appeal and a temporary stay that would be in place until a ruling can be determined on the permanent stay.

The appeals court gave the players until noon Friday to file a response to the motion for a permanent stay. The league's reply to the response is then due by 9 a.m. Monday.

Nelson ended the 45-day lockout on Monday when she granted the players' request for an injunction. The league asked Nelson for a stay on her decision but was denied Wednesday night.

Thursday morning, as it was filing its motions in St. Louis, the NFL instructed its 32 teams on how to proceed, pending the outcome of the Court of Appeals' decisions, of course. Because teams were finalizing their preparations for the start of the draft later that night, facilities remained closed on Thursday.

The league told teams they could begin notifying players to advise them that team facilities will be open beginning at 7 a.m. Friday. Players will be permitted to use team facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the team. Playbooks, game film and other similar materials also will be made available.

Coaches can meet with players. Voluntary offseason workout programs, including organized team activities (OTAs) and classroom instruction may begin. Players will be paid $130 per day for meeting workout requirements, and such workouts will count toward any offseason workout bonuses a play may have. Players can work out on their own, but they must prove they have an existing medical insurance policy in place.

Minicamps also may begin. The league is making arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substance abuse and steroid programs. The league is deciding when to resume its drug testing.

As for free agency, trades and all other transactions that will begin with the start of the league year, that has been put on hold pending the latest court decisions.

Meanwhile, it became obvious that coaches can't wait to start working with their players again. Word spread quickly that teams were preparing to start their OTAs next week.

The Lions, who closed last season with a rare four-game winning streak, will meet as a team on Monday and start their OTAs on Wednesday. The Bears and Vikings also told players to report Monday.

Of course, if a stay finally is granted, all of these plans are moot. The lockout would be back in place.

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