The NFL had a party over the weekend. Actually, it was more than just a party; it was a weekend-long bender. Players were drafted, young men cried, a commissioner was hugged, families rejoiced in jubilation, and all of our mock drafts were ruined.
Oh what fun we had. But like every dreary Monday, the weekend hangover lingers until something kicks the mind back into reality. The NFL reminded us this morning that reality is a cold, dark place.
With their temporary stay granted last Thursday, the league is still pursuing a permanent stay to reinstate the lockout. And to accomplish that task and convince the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals of their case, the owners sunk to the level of using a few off-the-cuff comments by the players.
The Eighth Circuit–a federal appeals court based in St. Louis–could issue its ruling as soon as today. When that ruling comes down, the three judges will have considered an 18-page brief filed by the owners this morning. In it, the argument is made that the lockout can continue while the appeal to overturn Judge Susan Nelson’s injunction is heard. The owners believe that delaying the start of the new league year and therefore the start of player transactions (trades, free agency, cuts) until late June or July does not irreparably harm the players. In that scenario free agents will still have sufficient time to find their future place of employment. By making this argument the league also projected a timeline for their appeal, saying it can “readily be resolved” during the offseason.
Reversing the irreparable harm argument, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the league believes owners will suffer irreparable harm if a stay is not granted and free agency begins under an injunction. Signings and trades would take place that may have to be restructured once a new collective bargaining agreement is finally reached, one that could usher in new free agency rules (i.e. changes to or removal of the franchise tagging system).
Lastly, the brief launched a few jabs at the players, noting that two players listed in Brady v. the NFL chose not to work out with their teams in the offseason last year (Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins). Then the usual child-like sand-slinging resumed, with the league citing two joking comments made by the players as evidence that this whole lockout thing isn’t so bad after all.
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis finds himself in the league’s crosshairs after saying that he’s never had a summer to himself. Meanwhile, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker–the same Wes Welker who said the best “good little foot soldiers” will win when the Jets and Pats meet in the playoffs–indicated his enjoyment of his new-found free time when he said “let’s do a lockout every year.”
A decision could come very soon, either in a matter of hours, or a matter of days. But for now, one thing remains crystal clear…