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Amherst native at center of NFL lockout case

Due to random judicial assignments -- and the recusals of two judges who cited conflicts -- Amherst native Susan Richard Nelson has found herself getting national renown as the U.S. District Court judge who heard the NFL players' request for a temporary injunction to stop the lockout imposed by league owners on March 12.

Nelson agreed with the players' argument and ordered NFL teams to reopen their doors in April. But her decision was soon put on hold by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, which sided with the owners by a 2-1 vote. A hearing was held in the same appellate court Friday to determine if the lockout will remain in place permanently. It is not known when the three-judge panel will make its decision.

In a Sunday exclusive in today's print editions of The Buffalo News, News Sports Reporter Allen Wilson profiles Nelson through interviews with the judge and those who know her best. Get the story on newsstands today.

Hardy aims to cling with Ravens

Former Bills second-round draft pick James Hardy is hoping good health will allow him to stick to what will have to be one of the last roster spots with the Baltimore Ravens this summer. Hardy sat out the entire 2010 season after being cut by the Bills in training camp. He was signed to a contract by the Ravens in January. He worked out with a couple dozen Ravens players this week.

"I feel I can bring the deep threat," Hardy told the Carroll County Times this week. "That's something that I specialized in college. Unfortunately due to injuries, I wasn't able to showcase that in Buffalo."

Hardy tore knee ligaments at the end of his rookie year. He spent much of his second season rehabilitating and on the sidelines, catching only two passes that year. Then he spent much of last summer's training camp on the shelf with a sore hamstring before being cut. He's big, at 6-foot-5. However, he didn't show much ability to create quick separation during his last season with the Bills.

He needs to make the most of this shot with the Ravens, but players in his situation are not helped by the lockout. They don't get a chance to impress during spring workouts. And if training camps are shortened, fringe players will get few quality repetitions. The Ravens have two established starting wideouts in Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. They drafted widouts in the second and fourth rounds, taking Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, respectively. They have a pretty good reciever-return man in David Reed. Fourth-year man Marcus Smith returns. Hardy will have to start fast in practice and get some good fortune to make the squad. If not, his NFL tenure could be over.

---Mark Gaughan

Moorman triathlon Saturday

There still is time to enter or donate to the triathlon run by Bills punter Brian Moorman. His PUNT Foundation Sprint Triathlon starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Erie Community College's downtown campus, at 21 Oak St. The event includes a 300 meter swim, 12.5 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. People can enter as individuals or enter as a three-person relay team. There also is a kids mini-triathlon. Go to brianmoorman.org to enter. People also can just show up at ECC by 7 a.m. to register on-site. The website also includes a link to make donations. Moorman's PUNT Foundation supports pediatric cancer research, treatment and social programs. It's a great cause.

---Mark Gaughan 

Bills coaches disavow court brief

The Buffalo Bills’ coaches joined a bunch of other coaching staffs today in distancing themselves from a motion filed by the National Football League Coaches Association to support the players in the current labor dispute.

The coaches group is a non-unionized trade association that helps coaches with information on salaries, health insurance, pensions, worker’s compensation and other employment matters. The association last week filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the players' cause as the league appeals an injunction granted to lift the lockout. An amicus brief gives a court a third-party perspective that might be useful in deciding a particular case.

However, Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins provided the following unsolicited statement on the matter: “Our entire staff had no prior knowledge, nor were we consulted that the amicus brief was being filed on behalf of the coaches. We support Mr. (Ralph) Wilson. Our focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season.”

Coaches from the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs released similar statements in recent days.

The NFL lockout is in its third month. The coaches association brief states: "Coaches who cannot produce immediate results suffer irreparable harm. They must uproot their families to seek employment elsewhere, and they have difficulty overcoming the perception of failure.”

It further states: “The lockout, if left in force, will prevent the coaches from meaningfully preparing and readying themselves for the season. While all coaches will be exposed to greater risk of failure, the eight teams with new coaching staffs are at particular risk. Since unforgiving expectations for immediate results will persist regardless of any lack of opportunity to prepare, these eight coaching staffs are losing irreplaceable time to prepare for a job that demands success.”

NFL coaches find themselves in a conflicted situation. Their jobs depend on the good will of their owner. Yet their job requires them to gain the cooperation of the players. In addition, the lockout is threatening their paychecks. Like all Bills employees, the salaries of the coaches are being reduced up to 25 percent during the lockout. However, the Bills’ coaches have it in their contracts that they would get withheld salary back if no games are lost.

The Eighth Circuit Court will hear arguments in the lockout case on Friday.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills players, New Era aid Joplin

The Buffalo Bills players have and New Era Cap Co. will combine to make a donation of at least $10,000 to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts in Joplin, Mo., which was ravaged by tornadoes late last month. In addition, 5th & Ocean, the apparel company New Era owns, will provide 10,000 pieces of clothing to residents in the Joplin area, Bills punter Brian Moorman reports. Moorman's college, Pittsburg State, is less than a half hour minutes from Joplin. Moorman's wife is from Pittsburg. Moorman has not been able to get back to Missouri this week (contrary to what was previously reported on this space). Moorman also is auctioning off one of his game-worn jerseys on ebay, and proceeds for that will go to the Red Cross' relief efforts. The auction ends mid-day on Friday.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills unis unveiled June 24

The Bills announced they will unveil their new uniforms on June 24 in an event at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It will begin at 6:30 and run until about 10:30 p.m. The Bills say the unveiling ceremony will be held in conjunction with the U.S. military. The event will include live music, Bills alumni and the Jills cheerleaders. There will be on-field access and football-themed games for fans. Then there will be a screening of a box-office hit movie 45 minutes after the unveiling ceremony. Fans can vote for the movie of their choice by going to the Bills' Facebook page (Facebook.com/BuffaloBills). The Blind Side, Top Gun and Despicable Me are the movie choices listed on the page. Complimentary tickets are required to attend the event. They are available at select Verizon wireless locations in Buffalo and Rochester, all Erie County M&T Bank locations and the Bills' stadium ticket office. There is a limit of six tickets per person. (Season-ticket holders will be sent ticket information.) The last time the Bills re-designed their uniforms was before the 2002 season. The new redesign will keep the Bills' charging buffalo logo. The helmets will change from red to white. The home jerseys are expected to go back to more of a royal blue color. 

---Mark Gaughan

Andre Reed appearance

Bills great Andre Reed will make appearances in Clarence on Saturday to sign autographs and promote his Over The Middle all-purpose sauce. Reed will be at The Podge, 10205 Main St., from 9 to 10:30 a.m. He will be at Dash's Market, 8845 Main St., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. With each purchase of Over The Middle Sauce, fans can get one bottle signed and another autograph. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold will benefit Kids Escaping Drugs, which supports Renaissance Campus, Western New York's only long-term residential treatment facility for teens addicted to drugs and alcohol. For more information on the sauce and where to get it go to www.andrereedotm.com.

---Mark Gaughan

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