Colts training complex open to players

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So the NFL lockout has been lifted, sort of.

Has the 2012 Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium been saved? Will the Indianapolis Colts kick-off as scheduled?

It’s still anybody’s guess.

Late Monday afternoon, Judge Susan Nelson ordered the end of the lockout orchestrated by the NFL owners.

What does this mean? I’m not sure even Judge Nelson knows. Both sides—players and owners—are trying to get clarification on what her order means.

As of 9 a.m., no players had shown up at the Indianapolis Colts 56th Street training complex, and team executives weren’t commenting on what they would and wouldn’t allow players to do.

The players union, now acting as a trade group, emailed NFL players Monday night telling them to head in to work Tuesday.

Team owners, on the other hand, huddled Monday night and agreed to let players in the doors, but not let them in the weight room or practice field. Also, many teams are beefing up security to keep reporters and photographers at bay. They’re especially keen to quash all player photo opps.

As of this morning, Judge Nelson’s decision is available online. It’s 89 pages, so if you want to know exactly what it means, you’d better take a long lunch and a fine-tooth comb.

Here are a couple notable tidbits. In her ruling, Nelson said she thinks the National Labor Relations Board will rule against the NFL’s claim that the NFLPA decertification is a sham.

IUPUI law school dean Gary Roberts, who served many years as the NFL’s legal counsel under commissioner Paul Tagliabue, said the ruling amounted “to a first down for the players. But they’re a long way from a touchdown.”

The owners are asking Judge Nelson for a stay of her order to end the lockout, and that is expected to be denied later today. The owners are then expected to ask an appeals court to allow the lockout to continue while Judge Nelson’s decision is being appealed. The appeals court will likely rule on the stay by the end of this week, and have a ruling on whether to support or overturn Judge Nelson’s ruling in about three weeks, Roberts said.

Until then, the doors at NFL team training centers are supposed to be open to players. Some players will certainly show up because of hefty bonuses they’re due for working out at team facilities during the offseason. Many players are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in workout bonuses, and a handful are eligible for as much as $750,000 in off-season workout incentives.

“I don’t think anyone knows how this is going to proceed,” Roberts said. “[Nelson] just said the lockout is enjoined, and gave no further direction.”

One thing that legal experts seem to agree on is that long-term contract negotiations between teams and players (think Peyton Manning) won’t resume until the labor drama finally comes to an end.

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