- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS | The NFL is a long way from playing football.

One confusing day after a federal judge ended a 45-day lockout, small groups of players showed up at team facilities Tuesday but were told they would not be allowed to work out. Most left in a matter of minutes.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said she wouldn’t rule on the NFL’s request for a stay of her order until at least Wednesday, so she can hear from players even as attorneys for the players asked her for clarification of her order.

Little was clear as both sides essentially made up the rules as they went along.

“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.”

Nelson lifted the lockout Monday, writing in an 89-page order that she believed it is causing “irreparable harm” to the players. The NFL questioned whether she had exceeded her jurisdiction, and said it would seek an immediate stay of her ruling as well as relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Nelson has given the players until 9 a.m. Central time Wednesday to reply to the league’s expedited motion for a stay.

But if her injunction is upheld -by the judge herself or the appellate court - the NFL must resume business in some fashion.

It could invoke the 2010 rules for free agency, meaning players would need six seasons of service before becoming unrestricted free agents when their contracts expire; previously, it was four years. The requirement for restricted free agents would be four years rather than the three years before 2010. There also was no salary cap in 2010, meaning teams could spend as much or as little as they wanted.

All of this was in the background for this week’s draft, which has a decidedly weird feel as teams prepare to make picks without free agency or the ability to swap personnel.

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