EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A federal appeals court threw the NFL back into chaos late Friday, putting a judge’s order lifting the lockout on hold.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the league’s request for a temporary stay of the injunction issued Monday that ended the 45-day lockout. Now arguments will be heard on whether that order should be overturned altogether.
The decision came as the second round of the NFL draft was getting under way, and it came on the very day players were allowed to return to their teams’ facilities. Dozens if not hundreds of players happily met with coaches, worked out and got a peek at their playbooks for the first time.
Will teams lock their doors again? That wasn’t clear late Friday.
“Our attorneys will review the decision, and we will advise the clubs as soon as possible on the next steps,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Some teams already were operating under the assumption that the lockout would be reinstated. The Vikings spent all Friday trying to get their first-round draft pick, quarterback Christian Ponder, up to speed.
“When it was not a lockout, they were allowed to spend time here to get (playbooks),” vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. “Now that the lockout’s back in, he’ll probably be leaving here shortly.”
New Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said he was disappointed.
“As coaches we just want to get to work and get the players in the building and get going forward. Today was a positive day in that regard,” he said. “It was nice having the guys in and being able to see some of the guys who are in town.”
Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards, scheduled to become a free agent, put it simply on Twitter: “Looks like we’re unemployed again.”
The 2-1 decision from a panel of the 8th Circuit was issued by Judges Steven Colloton, Kermit Bye, and Duane Benton. It included a lengthy dissent from Bye, who suggested temporary stays should be issued only in emergencies.
“The NFL has not persuaded me this is the type of emergency situation which justifies the grant of a temporary stay of the district court’s order pending our decision on a motion for a stay itself,” Bye wrote. “If we ultimately grant the motion for a stay, the NFL can easily re-establish its lockout.”
Bye also said the league hadn’t shown proof it would suffer irreparable harm without a lockout in place and had asked for the stay so it wouldn’t be forced to run its $9 billion business without a collective bargaining agreement in place.
“The NFL claimed such operations would be ‘a complex process that requires time to coordinate,’” Bye wrote. “This contention is severely undermined by the fact that the NFL had, within a day of the district court’s order denying a stay, already planned post-injunction operations which would allow the players to have access to club and workout facilities, receive playbooks, meet with coaches and so forth.
“Because I expect our court will be resolving the actual request for a stay in short order, I see little practical need for granting an emergency temporary stay in this non-emergency situation.”