- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. The federal judge overseeing the NFL players’ request to lift a lockout by the owners said it will take “a couple of weeks” to rule.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, however, urged both sides to get back to the bargaining table.

Judge Nelson heard arguments from lawyers for the players and NFL owners Wednesday in St. Paul.

The players say their careers are being irreparably harmed by the lockout. The owners say Judge Nelson doesn’t have the jurisdiction to issue an injunction while there is a complaint before the National Labor Relations Board.

Judge Nelson said she’d be happy to help facilitate a new bargaining session.

The lockout was imposed by owners three weeks ago after negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement broke off.

Named plaintiffs Mike Vrabel, Ben Leber, Vincent Jackson, Brian Robison and Von Miller were joined in court by veterans Tony Richardson and Charlie Batch and Hall of Famer Carl Eller. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the three highest profile plaintiffs, did not attend.

The court appearance was the first round between the NFL and its locked-out players in their legal fight over the future of the $9 billion business - including the 2011 season.

When Judge Nelson makes her decision, she could side with the players and grant the injunction, putting pro football back in business. Or she could side with the owners and either deny the injunction or wait to decide until the NLRB rules on the league’s contention that decertification was an improper bargaining ploy.

The winner would have leverage whenever talks resume on a new CBA. However, whatever Judge Nelson decides likely will be appealed.

The players say the lockout is causing “irreparable harm” to their careers. The injunction request accompanies the antitrust lawsuit filed against the league after labor talks broke down March 11.

“All of these players are being affected every day by being locked out,” James Quinn, a lawyer for the players, argued Wednesday.

The owners say the court does not have jurisdiction to issue the injunction while the NLRB is considering an unfair labor complaint. They characterize the players’ decision to decertify the union “a sham” that compromised the collective bargaining process.

The league says it has the right to keep players from working and says the court must wait until the NLRB rules on its claim that the players didn’t negotiate in good faith.