Skip to main content

Back to work: All 32 NFL teams open doors to players

NFL players are back at work -- and back in court.

Attorneys for the players filed a 39-page argument in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Friday.

The NFL wants the lockout restored as soon as possible. They want U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision to lift the lockout put on hold immediately and eventually overturned altogether.

The players say team owners haven't presented any evidence that they will suffer irreparable harm if the lockout isn't restored -- the biggest requirement to win their appeal.

The players also said owners "exhibit a near complete disregard for the real-world consequences" of their decision to lock out players.

The NFL cleared the way for some basic football operations to begin at 8 a.m. ET Friday, four days after a federal judge declared the lockout illegal and nearly seven weeks after it began.

And the players immediately took advantage.

"From the players' standpoint, I think everybody is pleased we're not locked out anymore, especially the rookies," New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on CNBC in his first public comments about the dispute since he became a named plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit filed against the owners.

In a conference call with New York Jets season-ticket holders, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will hold a conference call later Friday to address player transaction rules. The guidelines for free agency, trades and other roster moves have been uncertain 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.

"What we're doing right now is having to adjust, obviously, to court decisions," Goodell said. "We are opening our gates this morning to the facilities. ... The most important things for us is to obviously respect the decisions of the court, and secondly, make sure we proceed in an orderly fashion and inform all 32 of our clubs, to make sure we're doing it in a responsible fashion."

Players all over the league started reporting to team facilities in the morning, from Tony Romo in Dallas to Chad Greenway in Minnesota and DeAngelo Hall with the Redskins.

About a dozen Carolina Panthers players were spotted entering Bank of America Stadium, where a voluntary meeting was planned and players were expected to receive their playbooks from new coach Ron Rivera.'s Steve Wyche reported Friday that Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen was first to arrive, followed by backup quarterbacks Tony Pike and Matt Moore and offensive linemen Ryan Kalil and Duke Robinson.

"It's like Christmas," said Robinson, adding that he planned to work out following the meeting.

Wyche reported that Moore, a free agent who is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, wasn't given a playbook because he might not be back with the team.

A team official told Wyche that Moore is permitted to work out with the Panthers as part of his supervised rehab, following guidelines for free-agent players recovering from injury.

"I don't know what's going to happen when I walk in the door," Moore said, "but I'm happy to be here."

Kalil said the lockout has been good in some ways because he has been able to rest more and spend more time with his family. But Kalil was eager to reunite with his teammates.

"I don't think anyone thought it was going to get to this point, and it did. It got uncomfortable I think for everybody," Kalil said. "It's nice there's a little light at the end of the tunnel, and we get to come back and get out of that funk. We'll see what happens moving forward."

For the first time all 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 three days after U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision Monday to lift the owner-imposed lockout.

The chain on the Tennessee Titans' main gate was off, and it was open Friday morning. Guard Jake Scott, the team's player representative, was among three players who arrived. Scott was turned away Tuesday and Thursday, when he was met at the locked gate by two armed security guards.

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.

The rhetoric has been venomous at times, but Brady said that hasn't compromised the close relationship he has with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

"I think our relationship is much deeper than that," Brady said. "I don't think it's Tom Brady suing Robert Kraft. ... It's certainly not personal. He was at my wedding. We have a great relationship. We've always had (one). And I'm sure that's going to continue."

But the legal 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 league wants the appellate court to put Nelson's decision on hold so it can argue that it should be overturned altogether. The players were told to respond to the league's motion for a stay by midday Friday, and the NFL's reply to that is due Monday morning.

Goodell, who was roundly booed by passionate and impatient fans during the draft Thursday night at New York's Radio City Music Hall, said he feared the fight could last for a while.

Friday morning, he said he gets why fans booed him: "It's the fans' frustration, and I understand that."

"It'd be great to have everybody back in the building, but the real thing is we've got to get back to the negotiating table and get a CBA," Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said.

At least now, football activities can take place.

Mandatory minicamps and voluntary offseason practices can begin under rules of the old CBA. Team-supervised workouts will count toward bonuses in player contracts, and players also can work out on their own at team facilities if they have health insurance in place.

The league also will arrange for substance-abuse and drug programs to start back up, and players can participate in team-sponsored community and charity functions.

Romo and top targets Jason Witten and Miles Austin were among several Cowboys doing conditioning work on the practice field Friday morning.

Austin, the team's No. 1 receiver, showed up at 7:30 a.m. and left about two hours later. On his way out, he exchanged high-fives with Igor Olshansky as the defensive lineman entered the Valley Ranch facility.

At least 11 Redskins showed up at the practice facility in Ashburn, Va., including Hall, Kedric Golston, Graham Gano and Lorenzo Alexander, who was turned away from the workout room the previous three days.

Players also started trickling in with the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Dolphins, including Miami wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who recently was hospitalized following a domestic dispute. Marshall's wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after authorities said she stabbed him with a kitchen knife.

The Detroit Lions already have scheduled organized team activities for Wednesday, and the Chicago Bears have set a rookie camp for next weekend. Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said his team is ready to work.

"I consider us one of the organizations that will legitimately do the right thing with all this," Fujita said. "Guys who choose to report right away just have to be flexible and realize that if a stay is granted from the appellate court, then we're locked out again."

The longer the lockout is lifted, the better for a rookie class that enters the league with unprecedented uncertainty surrounding their arrival. Getting as much work in as possible, especially for the four quarterbacks taken in the first 12 picks, is paramount as they make the adjustment from college to the NFL.

"Yeah, it's going to be huge and for me as a rookie quarterback," Florida State's Christian Ponder said after being drafted 12th by the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday. "It's all about putting in my time and getting myself prepared for whatever role I'm going to have this coming season.

"So I know I'm going up there (Friday), and I already asked coach if I was going to have a playbook. And he said yeah, there will be one ready for me and we're going to talk some ball once I get up there, so I'm excited about it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.