The Lockout is Either Over or it Isn't


Something big happened today in the ongoing NFL labor battle, but no one seems to know exactly what.

Here’s what we do know: On Monday, Judge Nelson issued an 89-page ruling that, besides contributing immensely to deforestation, enjoined the lockout. The immediate reaction to this ruling was a giant yawn, mostly from legal experts who predicted it all along, and further predicted that the move would be followed by a stay, an appeal and possibly a bunch of clowns springing from a tiny car and doing a dance.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Judge Nelson’s ruling being dismissed as yet another mere tedious legal maneuver: people started wondering if, in the face of the ruling, the league could legally prevent players from showing up for work on Tuesday morning at facilities like the Vikings’ very own Winter Park.

There seems to be some disagreement about what exactly is supposed to happen next. For their part, Vikings players have been told by their player rep Ben Leber that they are indeed allowed to report Tuesday morning to Winter Park and work out. Since the release of Leber’s statement, the NFL management council has reportedly told teams they should allow the players inside their facilities but keep the weight rooms locked.

The management council stopped short of advising teams to turn fire hoses on their players, sic dogs on them or station riot police armed with tear gas at all entrances. So that’s encouraging.

But really, who cares about players being allowed to report and work out? What people really want to know is, could teams now sign free agents and execute player trades, thereby allowing for a full range of draft maneuvering?

And the answer is…no. Probably. No, definitely. No trades or free agent signings. Just players showing up at facilities but not being allowed to lift weights. Can they use the bathrooms though?

When you add up all of today’s developments, nothing really seems to have changed. Fans are still not going to see the player movement they crave, and the two sides really aren’t any closer to the sort of agreement that would allow the season to begin on schedule.

All the ruling really does is set up another round of legal maneuvers – just like the experts said. That the lockout is technically ended really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Today’s news caused an amusing flurry of confusion among normally smug media types, but beyond the entertainment value of watching smarty-pantses argue about the meaning of it all, not a whole lot actually happened.

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