NFL players earned a victory Monday in their legal battle against the NFL when U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson granted an injunction blocking the lockout.
As expected, the NFL quickly announced it intends to file an appeal, which will cause the court case to drag on even longer. But several Vikings players -- including two plaintiffs in the lawsuit -- called the decision a victory and "step in the right direction."
"It is good news for us as a class of players and as a trade organization," said linebacker Ben Leber, who is part of the lawsuit. "It’s exactly what we interpret the law to be so it’s nice that a very fair judge in a legal system looked at the facts and agreed. It’s a step in the process. We understand there’s going to be an appeal and it’s going to be drawn out even further. We’ll have to see what happens with the appeals court."
Many players seem to be taking a realistic approach about what this will mean. "I really don't think it means much until the appeals court accepts or denies the ruling and keeps the lockout in place during the appeal," said kicker Ryan Longwell, who like Leber, will become a free agent when the labor situation is resolved.
The Vikings waited Monday evening to get direction from the NFL on the next step in this process. There is no sense in beginning to schedule offseason workouts if those plans are only going to be delayed again. The Vikings already are prepared for free agency, if and when it begins.
Monday's ruling prompted questions about whether players -- particularly ones with hefty workout bonuses -- would show up at their team's facilities since the lockout was over. The league is seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis as it tries to get a stay on the lockout until the appeals process is complete. Many expect the appeals court will grant that motion.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has been encouraging teammates to show up at the facility at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
But Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has a $500,000 workout bonus, said he's not even in the Twin Cities so he won't show up at Winter Park. There have been other reports that players are taking a wait-and-see approach before showing up to their team's facilities.
Leber, the Vikings assistant players representative, said in a text message Monday night that at least one teammate has asked him if he's allowed to visit Winter Park on Tuesday.
"It's my understanding that we are able to workout at Winter Park tomorrow and players should feel free to do so," Leber wrote.
"I still feel like there’s a lot of things that need to be hashed out, but it’s definitely a big step in the direction we need to go," defensive end Brian Robison said. "It makes us a little bit more confident about the way things are now. They’ll search for a stay, they’ll ask for an appeal. Hopefully, they will just shut them down period and say, ‘Forget about it.’ But even if they take that on, it definitely gives us a little bit better timeline."
Like Leber, Robison is a plaintiff in the players lawsuit. He said he expected Judge Nelson to side with the players after attending the hearing three weeks ago.
"It’s a big win for us," Robison said. "I think walking out of the courtroom the first day I felt like that was kind of the ruling we were going to get. I was pretty confident she was going to rule in our favor after hearing the arguments and everything. But it’s a big step in the direction that we need to go in order to get the game back for us and but also to the fans."
The bottom line is that many issues remain and need to be resolved.
"We want to play football," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said in a text message. "Too bad an agreement isn't solidfied. There is plenty of money to be fairly distributed."
CHIP SCOGGINS AND JUDD ZULGAD