While the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ponders a full stay of U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson's decision enjoining the NFL lockout, the league is weighing options concerning free-agency rules should it be ordered to open for business.
Several general managers and agents have surmised that the league would implement its 2010 rules -- which required players to have six years of service time, not four, to gain unrestricted free agency -- for the 2011 season, and they have planned to see those players hit the market. But, according to multiple NFL officials, no decision has been made while the league operates on a temporary stay of Nelson's ruling.
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"Our goal has at all times been the same -- to operate under a negotiated set of procedures that are agreed to by the clubs and the NFLPA," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement. "The current litigation has created a significant amount of uncertainty, and we are therefore considering a wide range of alternatives depending on developments."
NFL Players Association executives, as well as players and agents, prefer the rules that were in place from 2006 to 2009, which included a salary cap and floor. The rules also allowed players to hit the open market well before six years of service time.
Any changes to rules for the 2011 season also could include how players are tested for performance-enhancing drugs. The New York Times cited an unidentified NFL official in reporting Sunday that the league might turn to the World Anti-Doping Agency to oversee the program.
According to The Times, involving the WADA eventually could lead to players being blood tested for human growth hormone for the first time.
The NFL is working with its legal team because any rules put in place could have significant ramifications on the Brady et al vs. National Football League et al case that challenged the lockout. The NFLPA also is closely monitoring the situation for any signs of restrictive trade issues or collusion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.