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NFL, players ready for lockout hearing, but big names missing

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Both sides will have sizeable contingents at Wednesday's federal court hearing in the case of Brady et al v. the National Football League et al.

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   The Associated Press breaks down all the details about the NFL lockout case, including when the judge could issue her ruling and how it could affect the league and players. 

But some big names in the NFL and the NFL Players Association won't be in attendance.

Sources said Tuesday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and general counsel Jeff Pash, as well as named plaintiffs Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, aren't expected to appear in U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's court when she hears the arguments for and against an injunction to lift the NFL lockout. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, another named plaintiff, already has said a previous commitment will keep him from making the trip.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, general counsel Richard Berthelsen and outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler are among the players contingent making the trip, and some of the named plaintiffs also will be in attendance. Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller has said he plans to attend. Many other NFLPA executive committee members are expected to be there, too.

Leading the NFL group will be new addition David Boies, outside counsel Bob Batterman and Gregg Levy, and management council lawyers Dennis Curran and Ed Tighe.

Attorneys for Brady, Manning, Brees and other players are scheduled to argue that the lockout should be lifted immediately because it is causing them "irreparable harm." The league contends the request shouldn't be heard until the National Labor Relations Board weighs in on its claim that the players' union negotiated in bad faith.

The first work stoppage in the NFL since the 1987 strike -- and the first in any major U.S sports league since the NHL's lost 2004-05 season -- has developed into a nasty dispute. The players balked at more financial concessions when the owners wouldn't open their books, and the owners insist the decertification of the union is a sham cooked up only to apply leverage in the fight.

Now, the sides don't even agree on which laws apply to the case, with the owners arguing for labor law and the players preferring antitrust rules.

Another lawsuit was filed Tuesday by a draft-eligible Middle Tennessee State wide receiver who alleges the league violated antitrust laws and created an anticompetitive market.

Nelson isn't likely to rule on the injunction request Wednesday. She could side with the players and grant the injunction, putting the NFL back in business. Or she could side with the owners and either deny the injunction or wait to decide until the NLRB rules on the league's contention that decertification was an improper bargaining ploy.

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Of course, whatever Nelson decides surely will be appealed.

It could become complicated if Nelson lifts the lockout, which wouldn't be as simple as it might sound. How to handle free agency could be a major contention, as far as which players are eligible and whether or not a salary cap would be in place.

This is one of the NFL's arguments against the injunction, claiming the uncertainty of putting football back in place without a labor pact would have a "detrimental effect" on the league's competitive balance.

That scenario would be "difficult, if not impossible, to unscramble the egg and return those players" to their original teams if the NFL were to ultimately win this case, league attorneys wrote in a court filing. League spokesman Greg Aiello declined further comment.

Wednesday's hearing will mark the first time the sides will meet in court since the lockout was imposed more than three weeks ago. There have been no fresh talks to settle the labor impasse, and the league recently rejected an NFLPA offer to meet and work out a litigation settlement.

"We are not interested in discussing a litigation settlement," Aiello said Monday. "We are prepared to continue negotiations immediately over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement and communicated that to the NFLPA two weeks ago."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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