Players can go in building, do little else

Updated: April 27, 2011, 10:44 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MINNEAPOLIS -- One day after a federal judge ended a 45-day lockout, small groups of players showed up at team facilities Tuesday -- let inside but told they would not be allowed to work out on the same day the judge who lifted the lockout said she will take at least until Wednesday to consider whether she should put her order on hold.

There was an exception Tuesday afternoon, however, as Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty worked out in the team's weight room and spoke to head coach Tom Coughlin and other staff members.

"Got a chance to get a good workout in," Canty said. "I am going to come back as long as the door is open. There was no tension here. Coaches are excited to have guys back in the building."

The coaches told Canty to return Wednesday, but the Giants announced later on Tuesday that the team will not allow players to work out at the facility on Wednesday should they show up.

Most players weren't as fortunate and left in a matter of minutes after arriving on a strange day with more questions than answers.

The league issued a statement that called for players to be "treated with courtesy and respect" if they show up. But the NFL said it needs "a few days to sort this out" before "football activities" can take place.

League operations were left in limbo for at least another day, too. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said she wouldn't rule on the NFL's request for a stay of her order until at least Wednesday, so she can hear from players -- even as attorneys for the players asked her for clarification of her order.

The players are asking Nelson to clarify what it means when she says the lockout is enjoined, according to the judge's docket. The NFLPA is trying to force the league to impose working rules or get the year started without rules. Nelson ordered the owners to respond by 6 p.m. ET Wednesday.

In an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on Tuesday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the NFL is ultimately hurting the fans by not letting players get full use of their team's facilities.

"To be in a state where the National Football League is allowing this kind of chaos to occur ... I'm not sure it's a good day for football in the long run," he said.

Armstrong It felt like you were sneaking into the club or something like that, and they knew you weren't supposed to be in there but they hadn't done anything about it yet. Just a little awkward.

-- Redskins' Anthony Armstrong

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday that teams aren't allowing players to work out until they get clarification from the NFL.

"We are in the process of determining throughout the league as to just how we will proceed and when we'll open the new year -- across the league our football year has not started yet."

Little was clear as both sides essentially made up the rules as they went along.

In a question-and-answer memo distributed by the NFLPA and obtained by The Associated Press, free agents were told they can contact teams and shop their services, putting pressure on the NFL to set up a free agency system that complies with antitrust laws.

The document also told players that teams are responsible for care of any football-related injury, meaning it's "safer for players to work out on club property."

"It's very chaotic for the teams right now," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "It's not chaotic for the players. Our position is the lockout is over, free agency should begin, signings should begin, offseason workouts should begin, everything should be going on. The longer the NFL doesn't do that and drags this out, the more there are concerns of collusion and violations of antitrust laws."

Buffalo cornerback Leodis McKelvin was turned away at the security gate, told to expect a call from his coach for clarity on when he could return.

"If I said I wasn't expecting it, I'd be lying to you," said Bills teammate George Wilson. "There's all kind of ways around and loopholes."

Washington Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander were met by general manager Bruce Allen and told they could come in but not work out. Both left after a few minutes.

"It was a little weird," Armstrong said. "It felt like you were sneaking into the club or something like that, and they knew you weren't supposed to be in there but they hadn't done anything about it yet. Just a little awkward."

Armstrong said he would call other teammates to let them know there wasn't much of a point to showing up.

"I do have a workout bonus, and since the lockout is lifted out," Alexander said. "I wanted to make sure I took full advantage to come up here and work out because I don't want some technicality to happen later: 'You didn't show up. You didn't come.' And then I'm out of my workout bonus."

Jets players Brandon Moore, Mike DeVito, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Jerricho Cotchery all reported to the team facility. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark was in the team's training room, but he said there weren't any strength coaches there.

"I assumed when the lockout was lifted that things would go back to the way it was," Clark said.

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah blamed the league for "chaos."

"The owners didn't seem to have a plan in place for an injunction. We were in a situation today where there were no uniform rules across the league," Atallah said.

Browns receiver Josh Cribbs said it was "disappointing" that he wasn't allowed to work out.

"I came here in workout clothes. I came to the Browns facility to try to work out," he told ESPN.com's James Walker. "I want to get back to work. We have a long road ahead."

The Jets' Ferguson, who has a league-high $750,000 workout bonus, said his appearance should count toward the bonus even though he didn't work out.

"Oh, most definitely," he told ESPNNewYork.com. "I made every opportunity to avail myself to work out. But at this time I wasn't afforded that opportunity."

Tennessee right guard Jake Scott, his team's player representative for the now-dissolved union, spoke to senior executive vice president Steve Underwood and left his team's headquarters 10 minutes later.

Scott said he was told no staff was available to meet with players. This for a team with a new head coach, too, in Mike Munchak.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen said he was told he can't work out on team property.

Nelson lifted the lockout Monday, writing in an 89-page order that she believed it is causing "irreparable harm" to the players. The NFL questioned whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, and said it would seek an immediate stay of her ruling as well as relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Nelson has given the players until 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday to reply to the league's expedited motion for a stay.

But if her injunction is upheld -- by the judge herself or the appellate court -- the NFL must resume business in some fashion.

"The ruling created more questions than answers," said Kyle Vanden Bosch, a Detroit Lions player representative. "It seems like the dust still has to settle over the next couple of days."

The Bears told kicker Robbie Gould that he "could not work out until clarification comes from the judge's ruling.

"I spoke to both [Bears contract negotiator Cliff] Stein and team president Ted Phillips, and they claimed the reason players won't be able to work out is because of fiscal liability," he told ESPNChicago.com. "They just don't want to run the financial risk of anyone getting hurt."

"It drives me insane, that's what it does," said Bears offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb. "I'm trying to eat healthy and work out, do my job and right now I'm just stuck at home working out and watching cartoons all day.

"What's up with that? Let me get back to what I do best."

Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, a free agent and one of the nine NFL players who are plaintiffs in the still-pending antitrust lawsuit against the league, said he was assured by NFLPA leadership that liability should not be a concern in what he called a "Wild West" setting.

"We should feel free to try to get workouts in and try to resume any sort of normalcy that we had before," Leber said.

Nelson's ruling was another rebuke of the NFL in the federal courts in Minnesota, which was established years ago as the venue for the league's collective bargaining system. Three weeks ago, NFL attorney David Boies suggested to Nelson that she shouldn't have jurisdiction over a dispute with an unfair bargaining accusation against the players pending with the National Labor Relations Board.

In her ruling, Nelson rejected that contention and recognized the NFL Players Association's decision to "de-unionize" as legitimate because it has "serious consequences" for the players.

Nelson even referenced her colleague, U.S. District Judge David Doty, who has frequently ruled for the players in the past. Not only did she declare that players are likely to suffer harm by the lockout, a legal requirement for granting the injunction, Nelson wrote they're already feeling the hurt now.

She cited their short careers, arguing that monetary damages wouldn't be enough relief.

What Nelson didn't do, however, was tackle the issue of the antitrust lawsuit filed last month when the union broke up. That, she wrote, "must wait another day."

In a "SportsCenter" interview with Schefter on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he's less concerned about the litigation than the future of the league.

"I think there are a lot of things in the litigation that concern me about the future of the game," he said. "And I've been very clear about that, I think the challenges to the draft, the challenges to free agency restriction. All of those things threatening what we have built, that everybody loves.

It's why the NFL has become the most popular sport ... these things have made our game competitive, exciting and the fans love it."

Owners imposed the lockout after talks broke down March 11 and the players disbanded their union.

Nelson heard arguments on the injunction at a hearing April 6 and ordered the two sides to resume mediation while she was considering her decision. The owners and players, who failed to reach consensus after 16 days of mediated talks earlier this year in Washington, D.C., met for four days with a federal magistrate in Minnesota but did not announce any progress on solving the impasse.

They are not scheduled to meet again until May 16, four days after Doty holds a hearing on whether players should get damages in their related fight with owners over some $4 billion in broadcast revenue.

Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president for labor and legal counsel, said Tuesday he is confident the league will ultimately prevail in the courts.

"Ultimately our legal position will be sustained," Pash predicted in an appearance on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" He also scoffed at Smith's earlier comment on the program that the NFL broke the law by imposing the lockout.

"I think it's quite a stretch to say we violated the law. We're quite confident that our position will be sustained in front of the 8th Circuit."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN.com's James Walker, ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk and Rich Cimini, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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