Score Round One to the players in their ongoing labor fight with the owners. But the owners aren't down for the count just yet.
As expected, Federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled in favor of the players' request for a preliminary injuction, which temporarily lifts the NFL-imposed lockout.
The league is expected to file an appeal as early as Tuesday morning. But first, it will ask Nelson to stay the decision. If she refuses, which is likely, the league will turn to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
If that move fails, the NFL will have no choice but to re-open its doors and return to business. In this scenario, the owners would have to figure out how to proceed with free agency. With no collective bargaining agreement, they could go back to last year's rules. That would be bad news for players with less than six accrued seasons like safety Donte Whitner and linebacker Paul Posluszny of the Bills. They become restricted free agents instead of unrestricted.
Whitner would be a big loser under the old rules. That means he probably would be stuck in Buffalo for at least one more year. He wants a top-five salary at his position, between $7 million and $8 million per year, a demand the Bills aren't willing to meet. Whitner might get a huge deal on the open market, but only if a new CBA is in place.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This matter is still in the hands of the courts, and you can bet your last money the owners are going to exhaust every opinion to regain the ground they lost in Minnesota Federal Court on Monday.
But if the very real possibility of another loss to the players isn't enough to push the owners to work harder to get a new CBA nothing will.
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