NFL, players struggle through lockout limbo

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“I think it was a little bizarre today, given the fact that the players couldn’t work out, but that’s apparently what the NFL decided to do,” said James Quinn, a lawyer for the players from Weil, Gotshal and Manges in New York. “They will set up the rules, and if we think they’re reasonable and legal, then God bless. If not, then we’ll keep fighting about it in court.”

Pash said the league had “some dialogue” with lawyers about the question of which rules would govern the launch of a new league year if the lockout remains in place.

If Nelson’s injunction is upheld _ by the judge herself or the appellate court _ the NFL must resume business in some fashion. It could invoke 2010 rules requiring six seasons of service before players can become unrestricted free agents when their contracts expire. There also was no salary cap in 2010, meaning teams could spend as much _ or as little _ as they wanted.

Seth Borden, a labor law expert at McKenna, Long and Aldridge in New York, said he thinks the chaos could help the owners’ cause for a stay.

“The confusion, about trades, free agency, signings, workouts, possibly provides the league with an argument that until the appeals can be heard, it doesn’t make sense to go forward with a new league year,” Borden said.

Owners imposed the lockout after talks broke down March 11 and the players disbanded their union. Nelson ordered the two sides into mediation. The owners and players, who failed to reach consensus after 16 days of mediated talks earlier this year, met over four days with a federal magistrate without any sign of progress.

They are not scheduled to meet again until May 16, four days after another judge holds a hearing on whether players should get damages in their related fight with owners over some $4 billion in broadcast revenue.

With appeals expected, the fight seems likely to drag on through the spring. The closer it gets to August, when training camps and the preseason get into full swing, the more likely it becomes that regular-season games could be lost.

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AP Sports Writers Tom Withers, Jimmy Golen, Rachel Cohen, Chris Jenkins, Joseph White, Jon Krawczynski, Dennis Waszak, John Wawrow, Jaime Aron, Steven Wine and AP freelance writers Gene Chamberlain and Terry McCormick contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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