Judge's Ruling Leaves NFL in Limbo

If the judge chooses not to grant the league a stay, it could create a chaotic situation if the appellate courts re-execute the lockout. Len Pasquarelli does his best to decipher the mess.

Whether the NFL argument to Judge Susan Nelson, that her Monday injunction lifting the lockout rises to the level of "irreparable harm" for the league if not stayed, holds any water remains to be seen. But one thing, following a Tuesday afternoon conference call with league vice president and lead legal counsel Jeff Pash, is clear.

Minus a stay, and essentially freezing the decision until the league has time to appeal the ruling either to Nelson or the Eighth Circuit Court, would throw the NFL into what Pash characterized as "a considerable degree of uncertainty."

Consider the following scenario: The NFL is forced to begin its "league year," and permit trades, free agency, releases, signings and waivers. Then after a few days of business as usual, an appellate court decides the lockout can resume.

Imagine the chaos that would ensue.

There are a lot of reasons, many of them legalese that is far too convoluted for us to understand or explain - and which appears to be a turn-off to the public as well - for the NFL to seek a stay. But the potential to be playing under one set of rules for a day or two, with free agents changing franchises and trades consummated, and then abruptly return to a lockout that freezes player movement, is one of the very tricky and knotty problems with which the NFL would prefer not to deal.

Said Pash: "We want to avoid trying to unscramble an egg."

The NFL, as expected, has filed its appeal of Nelson's decision. The decertified players association has filed with Nelson a "motion of reconsideration" which seeks a new injunction that would force the NFL to re-open its doors. Both sides remain confident of their respective stances.

Asked about the NFL's optimism, given the league's poor track record in courtrooms the past several years, Pash rattled off a litany of cases in which an appellate court eventually ruled in favor of the league. "The history of appellate courts," he said, "is quite different."

Pash termed the NFL position "meritorious," but said the league would respond "promptly" if forced by the courts to open for business, and stressed several times during the call with national media members that the NFL will comply with the court orders.

"(But) it's preferable for everyone to have some greater degree of clarity," he said.

Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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