NFLPA to host draft events over 3 days

Updated: March 29, 2011, 8:47 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The NFL Players Association will not stage an alternate event head-to-head versus the NFL on the first night of the draft, instead opting for a three-day celebration that will not interfere with the televised airing of the selection process on April 28 and 29.

The draft is scheduled to be held on April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The players' association announced on its website, NFLLockout.com, on Monday that it will hold the "2011 NFLPA Rookie Debut" in New York, starting April 28 with a private reception and culminating with an event on April 30 involving draftees, current players and their family members and sponsors.

Attendance for the players' association's events could be affected by a policy that allows draftees to interact with the team that drafted them up until the end of the draft on April 30.

Still, the NFLPA is not changing its stance that potential draft picks shouldn't attend the draft. Sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter earlier this month that the 17 top prospects who ordinarily would have received an invitation to attend the draft had been contacted and it was recommended that they not attend the draft.

Although the union has decertified, the NFLPA still exists as a professional trade association. By decertifying it declared itself out of the business of representing players, but still exists to support the interests of current and former NFL players.

Also by decertifying, the NFLPA was able to file an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. An April 6 hearing is scheduled in U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's Minnesota courtroom for an injunction request filed by the players that would keep the NFL and its teams from engaging in a lockout. The NFL locked out its players soon after the union decertified on March 11.

No ruling in the hearing is expected until mid-April at the earliest, an NFLPA source told Schefter. The players' association had a meeting about this issue Monday.

In an interview with ESPN earlier this month, commissioner Roger Goodell expressed his disappointment with reports of the union's alternate draft plans.

"I think it's a shame for young men that are starting their careers in the NFL, that are having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come across the stage, become an NFL player for the first time [to not be able to attend the draft]," Goodell told ESPN. "It's a really special moment and I hope they get to experience it."

Earlier this month NFLPA executive George Atallah would not go into details of the NFLPA's plans but told ESPN: "It will be special for those young men whatever we have in store."

"Our players are locked out. Past players, present players and future players," Atallah said. He emphasized that players who will be drafted are coming into a league where they can't negotiate contracts, meet with their new coaches or new teams.

"Most importantly, they can't play football," he said.

Ultimately, the decision to attend the draft will be up to each player, as it is every year.

"We plan to invite the 15 to 20 top prospects and their families to New York as we normally do for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, as always, it is the decision of the players and their families as to whether they attend," league spokesman Greg Aiello said earlier this month.

While the NFL always has paid the expenses for the invited players and their immediate family to attend the draft, the league said it would not pay players a fee in an attempt to have them present this year.

On Monday, Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones told an Alabama radio station that he hopes he can attend the draft. Jones confirmed to "Sirius NFL Radio" on Tuesday that he has been invited to the draft and will attend.

"I talked to my family and everything so it's just, you know, just to have this opportunity to go there and just have this experience," Jones said Tuesday. "We decided that we'd love to go there. You know, it's a one-in-a-lifetime chance."

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson also has said he hopes to attend the draft.

Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn said via Twitter on Tuesday that he has accepted a draft invitation and will be in New York.

"Accepted my invite to the draft this morning! Exciting stuff. Alot of work to put in before then tho," he wrote.

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