Players in limbo after lockout lifted

Updated: April 25, 2011, 11:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

With the lockout lifted, players are wondering if they can go back to work Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark says it's time to get back to business.

"I'm telling guys, 'Let's go to work tomorrow,' " Clark told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Monday.

Judge Nelson's court order prevents the clubs from locking out players under contract, so they can show up for work. Unless and until the judge issues an order for a stay [delay of the injunction], the teams will be in violation of Judge Nelson's order if they don't allow access.

-- The NFLPA's email to players Monday night, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter

"I've talked to a lot of guys on the phone -- told them tomorrow is still [a] big day," Clark told Nichols. "If they [the NFL] get this stay granted, there won't be anything going on for a while -- no OTAs, no minicamps -- so let's go in the building tomorrow and take advantage while the chain is off the door, so to speak."

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered an immediate end to the lockout Monday, siding with the players in their fight with the owners over how to divide the $9 billion business. However, the NFL responded by filing a notice of appeal questioning whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Hours later, the league filed a motion for an expedited stay, meaning it wants Nelson to freeze her ruling to let the appeals process play out.

The players' organization -- now a trade association and not a union -- emailed players late Monday night, advising them they are legally entitled to show up at team facilities Tuesday and that teams are not allowed to block their access.

Bills safety George Wilson confirmed late Monday that the NFLPA emailed players suggesting they report to work Tuesday. He said players were told they should be granted access under normal circumstances and if they are denied access the teams would be in violation of the judge's ruling.

"We have received inquiry from a number of players and agents. We have simply responded and told them we don't see anything wrong with it," NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said in a text message to The Associated Press. "Players are organizing stuff on their own ..."

Wilson had not heard from any Bills players who said they would report to the facility Tuesday.

"Be advised any player going to work tomorrow is doing so under the ruling that Judge Nelson rendered today," the email said, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

"Judge Nelson's court order prevents the clubs from locking out players under contract, so they can show up for work. Unless and until the judge issues an order for a stay [delay of the injunction], the teams will be in violation of Judge Nelson's order if they don't allow access."

In order to avoid any potential legal ramifications, the NFL Management Council spoke to all 32 teams tonight via telephone Monday night and urged teams to let players into their buildings on Tuesday -- with certain stipulations, according to two league sources.

The sources said teams were told not to open their weight rooms nor engage in any contract discussions, but to let their players in the building. The league also intends to get security in place for players to come in to avoid any potential confrontations or photo opportunities for the media. The NFL intends to debrief teams again in the morning with further instructions.

Clark is advising players to show up early, in order to beat a ruling on any potential stay.

"While we have an opportunity to get into the building, let's do it," Clark told Nichols.

Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller sided with Clark.

"I told my guys if they are under contract, they are allowed to go into the facility tomorrow to work out, get treatment and watch film," Miller told The Associated Press on Monday.

NFL agent Jerrold Colton, however, is approaching the situation more cautiously.

"It would be reckless of me to advise any of my players to show up in the morning in what could potentially be an awkward situation," Colton said to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "As far as I know, there is no scheduled workout planned by any team. And most contracts read that a player will be given a workout bonus if he shows up for 90 percent of the scheduled workouts."

While agents Drew Rosenhaus and Ralph Cindrich took Colton's cautious approach in emails to The AP, other agents suggested that players will begin reporting to team facilities Tuesday unless an immediate stay of the injunction is granted.

"If they are in town," agent Joe Linta said, "I would tell them to show up at 8 a.m. with a cup of coffee and their lunch box."

Clark While we have an opportunity to get into the building, let's do it.

-- Steelers safety Ryan Clark

The first round of the draft is Thursday and with hundreds of free agents in limbo, Nelson's ruling could throw the NFL into chaos.

Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said the pressure is on the league.

"They better act quickly, because as of right now there's no stay and, presumably, players could sign with teams," Quinn said. "There are no guidelines as of right now, so they have to put something in place quickly."

Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, who is a free agent, is one of the nine NFL players who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"Football is back to business, but guess what? There's no rules," Leber said. "There's a lot of positive to that, but there's also a lot of negatives."

Indeed, there are many more questions than answers. Leber said he was initially worried about what would happen to a player if an injury occurred during a workout at a team facility, but he said he was assured by NFLPA leadership that liability should not be a concern.

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

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he plans to be an early arrival when players are allowed back.

"I know whenever I'm told I can go back to the building, I'll be one of the first guys in there," Rivers said Monday. "Every time you hear there might be news, it makes you think, 'Oh, it's time to go.' But you've just got to be patient. We all want to play, and the schedule coming out makes you excited, then it's hurry up and wait."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ALSO SEE