MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Finally, the NFL is getting back to football.
Five days after a federal judge declared the lockout was illegal and nearly seven weeks after it began, the NFL said players can talk with coaches, work out at team headquarters and look at their playbooks.
The NFL said all of that can begin Friday, when it is also expected to release detailed guidelines for free agency, trades and other roster moves in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement.
“That’s great news,” said linebacker Joe Mays, one of 10 Denver Broncos players who showed up at the team’s headquarters Thursday. “It’s something we’ve been trying to do, get back to work.”
Fans, too, are desperate for a football fix.
On Thursday night, fans at the NFL Draft in New York roundly booed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell when he first appeared on the stage and repeatedly chanted: “We want football.”
Goodell acknowledged the fans, saying “I hear you.”
The promise of football was a welcome step forward on a day members of the Tennessee Titans showed up to find two armed security guards at their locked-up facility, no sign of their new coach. New players in particular will benefit from the new guidelines.
“These rookies, there’s a lot going on for them,” New York Giants center Shaun O’Hara said. “So any info they can get, any things they can study, is good. If the lockout happens again, they’ll have plenty to study from their teams.”
That’s certainly what the NFL wants.
The league has asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to restore the lockout as soon as possible. The court is considered a friendlier venue for businesses than the federal courts in Minnesota.
The NFL wants an immediate stay of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s decision on Monday to lift the 45-day lockout so it can argue that it should be overturned altogether. The players were told to respond to the league’s motion for a stay by midday Friday, and the NFL’s reply to that is due on Monday morning.
Michael Gans, the appeals court clerk, said a three-judge panel for the appeal had not been set.
Goodell said he feared the fight could last for a while.
“I think the litigation, unfortunately, could go on for some period of time,” he told the NFL Network. He said he was looking forward to the next round of court-ordered talks on May 16.