Report: Teams tamper with free agents

Updated: May 9, 2011, 4:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Because of the NFL's lockout, teams aren't allowed to contact undrafted rookies. Some teams are ignoring the league's mandate, however, according to a published report.

Six NFL agents told Pro Football Weekly that teams contacted them in regard to their clients who weren't drafted. The agents spoke to the publication on the condition of anonymity.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Pro Football Weekly that such contact between teams and agents for undrafted players during the lockout would be considered tampering.

With the NFL in a lockout, teams also are not allowed to talk with their players or drafted rookies.

In years past, the days after the NFL draft are akin to a feeding frenzy with teams signing multiple undrafted rookies.

"It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less [phone contact] than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end," one of the agents told Pro Football Weekly.

Three of the agents told Pro Football Weekly that some team representatives contacted them from personal cell phones so the records would be harder to trace if the NFL decides to audit teams' phone records in any tampering investigation. Two of the agents said their clients were contacted directly by teams.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis will hear oral arguments June 3 on the NFL's request to keep its lockout in place until a new deal is worked out.

But first, judges Duane Benton, Kermit Bye and Steven Colloton will rule on whether to maintain the temporary stay they issued last Friday, a decision the clerk, Michael Gans, said Friday is not imminent.

Court-ordered mediation between the two sides is set to resume before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan on May 16, after four days of talks last month and 16 days of federally mediated negotiations earlier this year. Little progress has been reported.

The old CBA expired on March 11, when the players broke up their union to file a federal antitrust lawsuit and the league enacted the lockout that lasted 45 days until a U.S. District Court ruled for the players to halt the lockout.

The lawsuit against the NFL is still pending before Judge Susan Richard Nelson, but the legality of the lockout has essentially become the fight for now, with both sides arguing over whether Nelson has jurisdiction in the case and over the notion of irreparable harm. That claim has been prominent in nearly every court filing of the last two bizarre, bitter months as the NFL has stumbled through its first work stoppage since the 1987 strike.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.