- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The NFL clearly isn’t ready to get back to football and fans won’t like the sound of this, either: Both sides are headed back to court.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who sided with the players and lifted the lockout this week, gave players a Wednesday morning deadline to tell her why she shouldn’t grant the NFL’s request to put her order on hold.

If Nelson denies the league’s expedited motion for a stay, the owners will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis for the same thing. They’re also asking the appeals court, viewed as a more friendly venue to the league than the federal courts in Minnesota, to overturn Nelson’s decision.

And while that all plays out, the $9 billion business is in limbo.

In one of the oddest days in NFL history, players showed up at their team headquarters Tuesday and most were told they were welcome to come inside as long as they didn’t participate in “football activities.”

Most left in a matter of minutes with more questions than answers.

“It drives me insane, that’s what it does,” said Chicago rookie J’Marcus Webb, who was told he and a handful of other Bears couldn’t use the team’s weight room. “I’m trying to eat healthy and work out, do my job and right now I’m just stuck at home working out and watching cartoons all day.

“What’s up with that? Let me get back to what I do best.”

That could take a while. The 2011 season, and the business between 32 teams and their thousands of anxious players, are in a holding pattern. The NFL said it needed “a few days to sort this out” and provide some rules for everyone to follow.

“We are in the process of determining throughout the league as to just how we’ll proceed and when we’ll open the new year across the league, the new football year,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We have not done that.”

In a question-and-answer memo distributed by the NFL Players Association and obtained by The Associated Press, free agents were told they can contact teams and shop their services, putting pressure on the NFL to set up a free-agency system that complies with antitrust laws.

The document also told players that teams are responsible for care of any football-related injury, meaning it’s “safer for players to work out on club property.”

NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said it was too soon to tell exactly when free agency would begin and which players would be eligible.

“What we need to do is let the dust settle for a day or two and see if the stay is put in place, and then we’ll all know more and go from there,” Pash said.

He expressed optimism and confidence about the league’s case _ and the appellate court.

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