Updated at 10:09 a.m. ET, Thursday, April 28, 2011
According to an Associated Press report late Wednesday night, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson denied the NFL's request to put her ruling that lifted the lockout on hold.
Nelson wrote that the league "has not met its burden for a stay pending appeal, expedited or otherwise."
The league and its owners had wanted the lockout to remain while they appeal Judge Nelson's ruling, with the argument that starting free agency and other football activities before the case has been clarified could be damaging to the competitive balance and operations of the league.
Reports indicate that Judge Nelson's decision does not dictate how the league should conduct business and what rules to use. It also doesn't obligate teams to extend contracts or sign players.
ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Judge Nelson "ordered NFL to start its league year immediately, but said no team is obligated to sign free agents. Trades in question."
In its motion for a stay of Judge Nelson's ruling with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, the NFL argued, NFL.com reported Thursday, that "absent a stay, it will be impossible to restore the parties to their respective positions as of April 25, 2011, if this Court determines that the District Court's Order was in error. Nor would it be possible to unscramble the egg in terms of player transactions (trades, signings, cuts) that would occur in the interim."
On Thursday morning, NFL.com's Albert Breer wrote on Twitter that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, when asked for an update on the league's position after Judge Nelson's latest ruling, told him: "Clubs notified last night they should continue to follow the current rules and practices until otherwise advised by our office."
Breer, again writing on Twitter Thursday morning, reported that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn, lawyers for the players, emailed players and agents this morning and informed them they hold the 2011 league year must begin immediately in the absence of a stay from the 8th Circuit.
"The NFL and the Clubs cannot collectively continue to refuse to deal with players," Kessler and Quinn wrote in the email, according to Breer, who quoted it on Twitter. "It is our view that the NFL (and) the Clubs will be in contempt of court if they do not comply with the order unless (and) until they hear differently from the 8th Circuit."
The way we see it
While it's waiting for the 8th Circuit Court to rule on if a stay will be granted, the league must consider setting up rules for free agency or risk being held in contempt for defying Judge Nelson's declaration that the league must open for business.
Many observers believe that the most realistic course of action would be to restore the rules that were in place for the 2010 league year. Whether that means that free agency begins immediately or within a few days has yet to be determined.
More clarity is expected to come Thursday.