We interrupt our hourly tracking of draft stocks for some lockout jubilation, which is a nice change of pace from the fear and anxiety of the last six weeks.
Tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. ET–exactly 12 hours after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell calls out the first pick in this year’s draft–doors on practice facilities will open throughout the league, and the lockout will be lifted. We imagine players will trample each other, and the scene will resemble your average Black Friday.
It’s all very tentative at this point, much like most of this legal mess. After Judge Susan Nelson issued an order to lift the lockout, the league requested a stay on the decision, which would temporarily halt the implementation of her ruling. Last night Nelson denied the league’s request, leaving us all wondering when business as usual would resume for the NFL, because legally it has to without a lockout.
The league has since taken its fight for a stay to be issued on Nelson’s injunction to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals, and a decision could come down as early as this afternoon. But in the meantime, the league has given direction as to when semi-regular activity will resume.
Players will be permitted to enter their practice facilities tomorrow morning for the usual offseason routines of working out, consulting with coaches, exchanging playbooks, etc. The full details are in the release…
1. Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the club.
2. Clubs will be permitted to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players.
3. Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed to players under item 2 above, as well as the club’s off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps, Organized Team Activities (“OTAs”), and other similar matters.
4. Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction, may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 CBA and Appendix L. Participating players will be paid $130 per day, provided the player fulfills the club’s reasonable off-season workout requirements. Such workouts will count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.
5. On days during which no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled under item 4 above, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on his own on a voluntary, unpaid basis during normal business hours, or such other hours as may be set by the club, provided: (i) there is no participation or supervision by any coach, trainer or other club personnel; and (ii) the club has first verified that the player has an existing medical insurance policy in place. Players without such personal coverage should not be permitted to work out at the club facility on an unsupervised basis under this item 5, but may do so under item 4 above. Unsupervised workouts will not count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract. This item 5 will apply both prior to and after the commencement of the club’s official off-season workout program.
6. Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 CBA.
7. The league office will promptly make arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs. We will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.
8. Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community relations events.
So there are smiles throughout the league, except if you’re working in a front office and are busy doing last-minute draft preparation. While it will indeed be business as usual around team buildings, free agency and any player transactions still aren’t permitted.
With their appeal pending, the league can organize the grounds upon which transactions and player movement will take place, and lay down whatever framework they chose for the new league year to begin. League spokesman Greg Aiello talked to Pro Football Talk and explained the rationale going forward.
“Judge Nelson said it was up to us to determine how to proceed, and we think in light of the fact that the first round of the draft is tonight, clubs are fully focused on that. The best way to proceed is for the veterans to start working out at facilities tomorrow, and then we’ll set up the process of starting the league year, which would include player trades and player signings. . . . No player transactions until we start the league year.”
We’ll see the start of a true offseason, and probably very soon. Unless of course the appeals court gives a full stay on the order lifting the lockout, and then we’re right back where this all began.
Happy draft day everyone!