On a day where one would expect little news emerging from the NFL, some lockout-related stories have been floated on the wire, one a report of team shenanigans, the other a rumor of catastrophic crappiness.
In case you take no delight in the slow workings of the law, here's a quick recap of the lockout developments over the last few weeks:
- April 25: Judge Susan Nelson sides with the players and lifts the lockout.
- April 27: Nelson rejects the league's request for a stay, ordering the league to begin its business.
- April 29: The NFL granted a temporary stay of Nelson's decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which re-institutes the lockout.
- May 3: Eight Circuit Court grants request for an expedited hearing about the stay to be held on June 3.
Although some players showed up to team facilities during the temporary resumption of business and presumably playbooks were dispersed, free agency was always on hold. That's been a significant impediment for teams in their effort to plan for a 2011 season, particularly for the Bengals who are working to create a life without Carson Palmer. But the suspension of free agency also affects all those young men not taken in the NFL draft (check out John Clayton's take on this). Many of those undrafted free agents would normally be under NFL contract now, but under lockout rules teams are forbidden to have contact with those players.
Well, it seems that was one of the jaywalking type prohibitions that few took seriously. From a story first published in Pro Football Weekly and now gaining traction, it's being reported that teams violated lockout rules by contacting at least six agents of UFAs.
"It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less [phone contact] than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end," one of the agents told Pro Football Weekly.
In the age of CSI, it looks like teams played it smart, contacting agents via their personal cell phones so the records of the conversations wouldn't be directly linked back to organizations if the NFL decides to audit team records. That bit of cloak-and-dagger is about all we know thus far, but we'll certainly hear more on this, especially if the league tries to levy any penalties.
And from that near-comical rebelliousness, we turn to a sobering report by PFT's Mike Florio, who has decided to play the part of Chicken Little and point toward the falling sky.
We’re hearing initial rumblings pointing to the possibility that a loss by the league at the appellate level will prompt the owners to completely shut down all business operations until the players agree to a new labor deal. The thinking is that, if the owners cease all operations, the NFL would not be violating the court order because there would be no lockout. Instead, the league essentially would be going out of business — something for which the NFL repeatedly chided the union in the weeks and months preceding decertification of the NFLPA.
Well that's not good. Not good at all. Let's just hope Florio is simply trying to snatch the spotlight away from his mother today. It's hard to imagine the league shutting down, but then again I found it hard to imagine there'd be a lockout.