The NFL cleared the way for some of its basic football operations to begin at 7 a.m. today, five days after a federal judge declared the lockout illegal and nearly seven weeks after it began. And the players immediately took advantage. Five Redskins players showed up before 8 a.m. at the practice facility at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. For the first time this offseason, players have been cleared to talk with coaches, work out at team headquarters and get playbooks. All were turned away from team facilities in the four days since U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson rendered the decision to lift the owner-imposed lockout. The owners and players have been embroiled in a bitter battle over how the NFL’s $9 billion pie is sliced, a fight that has been taken to the courts. That fight is far from over, despite the halting steps back toward football. The league has asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to restore the lockout as soon as possible, hoping for a friendlier venue than the federal courts in Minnesota.
The NFL also was expected to release detailed guidelines for free agency, trades and other roster moves later today in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement. That expired March 11, the same day the players union was disbanded to clear the way for a court fight. The league wants the appellate court to put Nelson’s decision on hold so it can argue that it should be overturned altogether.