Welcome back to Niners Nation After Dark, where anybody who says they know what will happen next in the NFL-NFLPA labor dispute is either lying or stupid. Earlier this afternoon federal judge Susan Nelson issued an order granting an injunction that would lift the league-imposed lockout on the players.
The league requested Nelson stay (delay) the injunction pending their immediate appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Nelson declined to grant a stay, so the league is now asking the Court of Appeals to issue a stay. Initially it sounded like a decision on that would not be heard for upwards of a week, but now I've heard people reporting the Eighth Circuit could issue a decision as soon as later today (Tuesday).
Let's be clear on a couple things. If a stay is issued, we get to wait until the Court of Appeals issues their decision on the appeal that is forthcoming. Even if they issued an expedited opinion, that would take us sometime into May at the earliest. If they did not expedite the opinion, it could go into July or August.
If they decided to NOT issue a stay of the injunction pending the league's appeal, we would officially enter the truly unknown. If the lockout were lifted with the injunction the league would have to open for business, meaning everything from free agency and trades, to OTAs and minicamps. Free agency and trades would not begin the instant the stay is denied. Rather, the league would need to figure out its new rules, which would likely be implementation of the 2010 rules. The league could offer up new rules, but if the players did not like the new rules, they could file an anti-trust lawsuit claiming the new rules are an illegal collaboration by the owners.
All in all, it really is just a big fat mess. For a solid rundown of where things stand, I recommend checking out Mike Florio's Ten Things To Know piece. We'll have plenty more on this topic, but for a quick rundown, Florio hits the important points. Also, Roger Goodell has written up an opinion piece posted over at the Wall Street Journal's website.