Reporting from New York
The NFL, after a series of legal setbacks, got a breather Friday when a federal appeals court put the lift of the lockout on hold.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the league's request for a temporary stay of the injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who had ordered an end to the 45-day lockout.
The 8th Circuit granted a short stay in order to have time to consider a longer one. The NFL is appealing Nelson's decision and wants the right to keep the lockout in place while that appeal is being decided.
Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said in an email that the stay from the 8th Circuit was "routine and totally expected."
NFL owners and players are fighting over how to divide the league's $9.3 billion in annual revenues, and the owners have instituted a lockout — essentially shutting down all football operations except the draft — in large part to create leverage for a favorable deal.
Earlier Friday, there was something of a return to normalcy when, in keeping with Nelson's order, teams opened their doors, welcoming back players, allowing workouts and in some cases distributing playbooks. Then came the stay and the potential — but not a guarantee — that those doors would be locked again.
The NFL has not disclosed how it plans to proceed.
"Our attorneys will review the decision, and we will advise all clubs as soon as possible on next steps," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.
A day earlier, Quinn said the league was "obviously dragging its feet" in not lifting the lockout earlier this week and instead spending days asking for further clarification from Nelson. Then, Nelson denied the league's request to stay her order.
Quinn, co-chairman of global litigation at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, said the league is "hearing judicial footsteps."
The on-again, off-again lockout creates plenty of challenges for teams, especially when they now enter a period of bringing rookies up to speed. The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, had first-round pick Christian Ponder at their facility Friday and gave him a playbook.
Said Vikings executive Rick Spielman of Ponder: "Now that the lockout's back in, he'll probably be leaving here shortly."
At Radio City, fans who came to see who their team would select, booed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for a second day and resumed their Thursday singsong chant of "We want football!"