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“On these issues in particular, the history of appeals court rulings has been quite different from how trial courts have looked at this,” Pash said. “We feel we have very credible legal arguments to assert, and we’ll know in a short period of time whether we’re right or not.”

At least the draft will be held this week, even if free agency and personnel swaps are up in the air. Few players, if any, are expected to show up at team facilities until things clear up.

Said New York Jets defensive lineman Mike DeVito after a fruitless visit Tuesday: “It was like a ghost town in there.”

“It’s very chaotic for the teams right now,” agent Drew Rosenhaus said. “It’s not chaotic for the players. Our position is the lockout is over, free agency should begin, signings should begin, offseason workouts should begin, everything should be going on.”

If Nelson’s ruling 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.

Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy suggested that might be the plan.

“What we would probably do if Judge Nelson and the 8th Circuit deny our request for a stay would be play under the same rules that we had last year,” he said. “It’s 2010 rules, those were agreed to by the players in the collective bargaining agreement, I think that’s probably the rules that make the most sense.”

James Quinn, a lawyer for the players from Weil, Gotshal and Manges in New York, said if the league comes up with rules “we think they’re reasonable and legal, then God bless. If not, then we’ll keep fighting about it in court.”

Owners imposed the lockout after talks broke down March 11 and the players disbanded their union, clearing the way for an antitrust lawsuit still pending before Nelson. She ordered the two sides into mediation, but four days of talks with a federal magistrate ended with no signs of progress, just as 16 days of mediated talks did earlier this year.

The two sides 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 fight with owners over some $4 billion in broadcast revenue.

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.


AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Chris Jenkins, Dennis Waszak, Jaime Aron and AP freelance writers Gene Chamberlain and Terry McCormick contributed to this report.