- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS | NFL players urged a federal judge Wednesday to deny the league’s request to essentially restore the lockout, saying their careers were at stake. Commissioner Roger Goodell, meanwhile, said owners were preparing for every contingency.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson is weighing a request from the owners for a stay, which means the injunction she issued to stop the lockout would be frozen during the appeals process.

The waiting game was on.

“You have to react to the judgment and make sure it’s done in an orderly process,” Goodell said Wednesday during a predraft event in New York.

The players dismissed the NFL’s argument that it risks either violating antitrust laws by coming up with new league rules without a collective bargaining system in place or harming the league’s competitive balance by a potential free agency free-for-all.

“If the NFL defendants are faced with a dilemma, they put themselves in that position by repeatedly imposing rules and restrictions that violate the antitrust laws,” the attorneys wrote. “Any alleged predicament is of their own making.”

The solution, the players argued, is to simply implement a system that does not violate antitrust laws.

“There is no reason why the NFL defendants cannot devise a lawful player system, and their complaints about potential antitrust scrutiny are not well-founded where such scrutiny is a reality of doing business,” they wrote.

If Nelson grants the league’s request, players want the NFL to post a $1 billion bond, roughly 25 percent of player compensation last year. An NFL attorney said the bond “raises significant issues” the league hasn’t yet addressed and asked Nelson for permission to file a written response.

If Nelson denies the league’s expedited motion for a stay, the owners will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis for the same thing. They’re also asking the appeals court, viewed as a more friendly venue to the league than the federal courts in Minnesota, to overturn Nelson’s decision.

The NFL draft starts Thursday night, but it will be far from normal. The lockout has prevented teams from adding free agents and adjusting their rosters, so their strategy this year is more complicated, not knowing exactly when they’ll have a chance to sign or trade for veterans to stock various positions.

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