- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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Brees is one of 10 players named in the antitrust litigation against the NFL. On Monday, the players were dealt a blow when the 8th Circuit granted NFL owners' request for a permanent stay of a district judge's ruling that temporarily lifted the lockout. The league's full-fledged appeal will be heard in St. Louis on June 3.
In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court said it believes the NFL has proven it "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay." The court also cast doubt on the conclusions of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who ruled April 25 that the lockout should be lifted to save the players from irreversible damage. The 8th Circuit panel put her decision on hold four days later.
"The league has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the appellate court majority wrote.
"I haven't read the opinion yet but I'm discouraged by the fact that that the U.S. District Court had ruled heavily in our favor and now it seems to be the opposite in the 8th Circuit Court," said Brees. "We're in mediation now and I always go in with a positive attitude that we can work towards a settlement. It has to run its course but I'm hoping there is progress made so we can get back to football."
In the meantime, Brees estimates that the Saints have had 35 to 40 players participate in a third week of player-run offseason workouts at Tulane University.
"We have had structured, organized workouts with position-specific drills," said Brees. "We have empowered our leaders to step up. The way I look at it, we as players can only worry about what we can control. We want to make sure we're ready to put our best effort forward, whether its two months from now, three months, six months ... I don't think anybody knows.
"If we're only given three weeks to play our first game, how organized will we be? At some point, we'll be out there competing, trying to win games and we're taking that to heart."
Brees acknowledged the players are both contractually and personally at risk if they suffer injuries during non-supervised workouts.
"That's always a concern and we've been open about that with the guys," said Brees. "We have no injury protection right now but we'll take the risk. I think the general feeling, is we'd all be working out by ourselves anyway but what this does, it brings us together in an organized fashion and it motivates us to compete. It's so much more fun being with the fellas. Guys are out here jawing at each other, laughing. Guys crave that camaraderie, brotherhood, not to mention hard work and the commitment we have to work for this season, whenever it gets underway."
Brees said teammate Reggie Bush was not among the participants -- yet.
"I'm working on him and hope we can get him out at some point," he said with a laugh. "We've got some guys who are free agents who may not be with us next year who are here. Our attitude is that you're a member of our team until you sign with someone else so get on out here."
In an attempt to keep Saints fans engaged during the lockout, Brees will oversee a public raffle Tuesday in which four winners will be invited to join the Saints' training sessions for a day.
The winners will get to eat, practice and socialize with the Saints on Wednesday, May 25.
"Obviously, I wish we were in a normal offseason program, but that would be fully resticted to players and coaches so we thought this would be a great opportunity for fans to experience a day in the life of a pro football player," Brees said. "It gives diehard fans from the WhoDat nation a once-in-a-lifetiime opportunity. We'll fly in the winners, put 'em up at the Ritz Carlton, eat breakfast with 'em, give 'em a gift bag, put 'em through the workouts, throw it around, have a big lunch, a good social session."
Brees added, "We hope to raise a significant amount of money that we can quickly turn around and put back into the New Orleans and Louisiana community through local charities."
Brees denied that the fan raffle to participate in workouts was a public relations stunt.
"That's not the motive here," said Brees. "We have a special relationship with the WhoDat Nation of Saints fans. They're craving football and this is an unpredictable time. It's opportunity to reach out to them and to give back to the community. That's been our mission from the day we arrived and [Hurricane] Katrina hit."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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