NFL: Court today, free agency tomorrow?

NFL: Court today, free agency tomorrow?
April 6, 2011, 10:12 am
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 6:30 a.m. By Rich Tandler
Redskins Blogger
CSNwashington.com Later today in Minneapolis, Judge Susan Nelson will hear the NFL and the NFL Players Association make their cases for whether or not she should grant an injunction to stop the NFL lockout that has been in place for about 3 12 weeks. Im no legal expert by any stretch, but here is an overview of some possible outcomes: Nelson could issue an immediate injunction. She has had the legal briefs from each side for over a week and could decide there is irreparable harm being done to the locked-out players that will get worse with each day. This would end the lockout within hours, maybe a day or two at most. Free agency would start this week, and players would be working out at team facilities. The NFL as we know it would proceed while the wrangling continued in court. The chances of this happening see to be small, but its not out of the question. A player who would have received a 5 million signing or roster bonus on the day that free agency was originally slated to begin has lost 21,000 in interest had the money been put it in some instrument earning 5 percent annually. Multiply that by a few hundred players and you have some significant financial damage being done. Still, this being the American legal system, dont look for anything to happen that fast. The judge could try to get the two parties to come to a negotiated settlement before taking up the case.Sports Illustrated's Peter King suggested this yesterday, citing a precedent in a case that Nelson handled involving a school system and a pair of gay teenagers. No question, the NFL case is more complicated. Plus, after the two sides stared each other down for a couple of years and then couldn't get a resolution in a couple of weeks with a federal mediator, its doubtful a couple of hours in Nelsons chambers will get it done. But if one side or the other gets nervous about losing the pending court case, that side could cave. Like the immediate injunction, a quick settlement is possible but highly unlikely. Nelson could hear the case, deliberate for a week or two and then issue an injunction. This seems to be the most likely scenario. Although a ruling on an injunction often can take a month or so, Ive heard that such a wait would be unusual in a high-profile case such as this one. If the injunction is granted, the offseason will resume. With the start of the draft looming three weeks from tomorrow, it still may be possible to get in an abbreviated free-agent signing period before the draft. Two of the above scenarios presume Nelson will rule in favor of the players. They are slight favorites to prevail, maybe by about a field goal. But if Nelson refuses to issue an injunction, either immediately or in a couple of weeks, we are right where we are today, staring at a lockout involving two sides that cant even get together to talk. The standoff could continue into the summer and maybe even the fall. Or Nelson could rule in the players favor but the league could get an immediate stay from an appeals court, blocking the injunction, leaving us with the same result. What might look like a win for the players that would get the NFL offseason moving again could be short-lived, reversed after a review under the hood. So while the optimal outcome from the standpoint of most fans might result in NFL free agency starting at some point this week, the more likely scenarios will have us waiting for a week or two, if not longer. Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. Contact him at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins.