The National Football League notified the 32 teams, including the Atlanta Falcons, on Thursday that they can resume business operations starting at 8 a.m. Friday.
The league, embroiled in a bitter labor dispute with the NFLPA, was forced to lift the lockout after Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled in favor of the players, granting a preliminary injunction on Monday. She denied the league’s motion to stay her decision on Wednesday.
While the league plans to exhaust its legal moves by requesting that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals grant a stay of the preliminary injunction while waiting to hear their motion for an appeal, they are going to comply with the Nelson’s order to lift the lockout.
“Pending further guidance from the Eighth Circuit, we believe it is appropriate for clubs to take additional steps in response to the preliminary injunction,” The league wrote in a statement.
The teams are now free to contact players immediately to advise them of the hours that the facility will be open, to schedule medical and rehabilitation activity, and to arrange meetings with coaches or related activity, such as film study or classroom work.
This is important for Falcons middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who is recovering from two knee operations. Also, safety Shann Schillinger is recovering from a fractured ankle and wide receiver Kerry Meier is rehabilitating from knee surgery.
The league’s statement on post-Injunction operations clarified several points:
1. Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the club.
2. Clubs will be permitted to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players.
3. Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed to players under item 2 above, as well as the club’s off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps, Organized Team Activities (“OTAs”), and other similar matters.
4. Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction, may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 CBA and Appendix L. Participating players will be paid $130 per day, provided the player fulfills the club’s reasonable off-season workout requirements. Such workouts will count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.
5. On days during which no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled under item 4 above, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on his own on a voluntary, unpaid basis during normal business hours, or such other hours as may be set by the club, provided: (i) there is no participation or supervision by any coach, trainer or other club personnel; and (ii) the club has first verified that the player has an existing medical insurance policy in place. Players without such personal coverage should not be permitted to work out at the club facility on an unsupervised basis under this item 5, but may do so under item 4 above. Unsupervised workouts will not count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract. This item 5 will apply both prior to and after the commencement of the club’s official off-season workout program.
6. Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 CBA.
7. The league office will promptly make arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs. We will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.
8. Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community relations events.
However, the league is still working out the procedures for how player transactions, such as signings, trades or player contracts, terminations, tryouts will be conducted. They hold to distribute those guidelines to the teams by Friday, which will also include the timing for the commencement of the 2011 league year, free agent signings and all other transactions.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog