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An NFL week unlike any other

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 03:19 PM
NEW YORK -

From lockout to injunction to limbo and back to lockout — with a draft thrown in. Not even Super Bowl week gets that wild.

Backed by an appeals court ruling, owners shut their doors once more, with players across the league trying to figure out where they stand — again.

That includes veterans with contracts and free agents. It includes rookies drafted in the first round who took advantage of a small window Friday to meet with coaching staffs and get playbooks.

And it includes players being drafted Saturday in the fourth through seventh rounds, plus any collegians not selected at all. They can have no communication with their teams.

NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae calls the past few days "chaotic." And with a court hearing scheduled for Monday in St. Louis, the labor dispute could take a few more turns.

"This is hurting everybody," Mawae said. "The guys getting drafted who can't be part of their teams, the older guys who should be allowed to work out and get ready for playing football."

They were able to do so Friday until an appeals court issued a temporary stay of the injunction that blocked the lockout. The league ordered the 32 teams late Friday to shut down all business except the draft.

The ruling came after 17 Broncos veterans showed up at work Friday. Quarterback Tim Tebow wasn't among them. The second-year pro who started the final month last season didn't get into Denver in time to join his teammates.

"When I landed, the lockout was back on," Tebow said.

That also meant the chain was back on the main gate at the Tennessee Titans' facility, a day after the entrance was thrown open for the 15 to 20 players who came by.

"When you get in court, basically where we are in the process, then you now have somebody else making the decisions for you in many cases," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I think that in general, the things that we want to do are good and are good in the long-term interest of the players, as well as the fans, as well as NFL football."

There was little feeling of goodwill among the fans who showered commissioner Roger Goodell with a steady stream of boos during the draft at Radio City Music Hall. They chanted "We want football" even before proceedings began Thursday night, to which Goodell responded, "So do I."

One day later, the lockout was back on. Puzzlement had replaced optimism.

So what's next?

Monday becomes a critical day. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order lifting the 45-day lockout last Monday was temporarily stayed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Friday. The lockout returned a few hours later as the third round of the draft concluded.

"We are in uncharted but fascinating legal territory," said agent/attorney Ralph Cindrich. "The owners' lockout is temporary now; it can become permanent after the same three judges do a detailed review. If the lockout is reinstated, it puts the players down on points big."

But Cindrich predicts the NFL will not get Nelson's injunction permanently blocked. If he is correct, teams will be opening for business again soon.

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