Since the beginning, the battle between the players and the NFL has been about leverage. The NFLPA decertified and the league locked out the players and shut down NFL operations. Stalemate gave way to a shift in momentum this week as Judge Susan Nelson granted the players' motion to end the lockout, citing irreparable harm. The NFL fired back requesting a stay to Nelson's ruling, citing irreparable harm in lifting the lockout on the basis that they're unprepared to begin the league year.
Flimsy, at best. The league's argument is as flimsy as the St. Louis Rams offensive line three years ago. Last year, with no CBA in place, the league operated under a well-defined set of rules. What reason would they have to claim teams and the league are unprepared now with a proven, though unpopular, set of rules in place from last year?
The problem with those rules is that they're likely to invite further antitrust action from the players. It is kind of a dilemma for the league. What system they could implement without inviting antitrust action remains to be seen.
Leverage shifted to the players with Nelson's ruling. Even with a looming appeal, the 8th circuit must first decide on Nelson's decision itself, i.e. the one in which she cited irreparable harm to players. That will be difficult to overturn given the case her court made. Sun Tzu and heaping helping of other generals throughout history constantly cite the need to press a vanquished enemy. The former NFLPA is doing just that, requesting a $1 billion bond if the league's request for a stay is granted.
Add that to the damages hearing in the television contracts case next month, and the league could take a very costly hit from players...with the battle far from over.
Judge Nelson is expected to decide today whether or not to grant the stay. Logic says she'll stay with her initial decision, since she's already cited the irreparable harm to players and public interest (that's you and me). What this means is that the league year could open at roughly the same time as the 2011 NFL Draft happens, unleashing a torrent of chaos, sweet, sweet chaos.