- Associated Press - Friday, April 29, 2011

EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. (AP) - Welcome back, players.

The NFL cleared the way for some basic football operations to begin at 8 a.m. EDT Friday, four days after a federal judge declared the lockout illegal and nearly seven weeks after it began.

“From the players’ standpoint I think everybody is pleased we’re not locked out anymore, especially the rookies,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on CNBC in his first public comments about the dispute since he became a named plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit filed against the owners.

In a conference call with New York Jets season-ticket holders, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will hold a conference call later Friday morning to address player transaction rules. The guidelines for free agency, trades and other roster moves have been uncertain in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement. That expired March 11, the same day the players’ union was disbanded to clear the way for a court fight.

“What we’re doing right now is having to adjust, obviously, to court decisions,” Goodell said. “We are opening our gates this morning to the facilities. … The most important things for us is to obviously respect the decisions of the court, and secondly, make sure we proceed in an orderly fashion and inform all 32 of our clubs, to make sure we’re doing it in a responsible fashion.”

Players all over the league started reporting to team facilities in the morning, from Tony Romo in Dallas to Chad Greenway in Minnesota and DeAngelo Hall with the Redskins.

About a dozen Carolina Panthers players were spotted entering Bank of America Stadium, where a voluntary meeting was planned and players were expected to receive their playbooks from new coach Ron Rivera.

One of the first to arrive was quarterback Jimmy Clausen, whose job is in jeopardy after Carolina drafted Auburn’s Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night. Fellow QBs Tony Pike and Matt Moore, who is unsigned and recovering from a shoulder injury, also arrived.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen when I walk in the door,” Moore said, “but I’m happy to be here.”

Center Ryan Kalil said the lockout has been good in some ways because he’s been able to rest more and spend more time with his family. But Kalil was eager to reunite with his teammates.

“I don’t think anyone thought it was going to get to this point and it did. It got uncomfortable I think for everybody,” Kalil said. “It’s nice there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel, and we get to come back and get out of that funk. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”

For the first time all offseason, players have been cleared to talk with coaches, work out at team headquarters and get playbooks. All were turned away from team facilities since U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s decision Monday to lift the owner-imposed lockout.

The Tennessee Titans’ main gate, which had been chained, was open Friday morning. Guard Jake Scott, the team’s player representative, was among three players who arrived. Scott was turned away on Tuesday and Thursday, when he was met at the locked gate by two armed security guards.

The owners and players have been embroiled in a bitter battle over how the NFL’s $9 billion pie is sliced, a fight that has been taken to the courts.

The rhetoric was venomous at times, but Brady said that has not compromised the close relationship he has with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

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