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Appeals court could rule today on NFL lockout

NEW YORK -- If these are not fun times for football fans, they are captivating days for lawyers.

The NFL lockout is back in effect after a hiatus last week. A St. Louis appeals court could determine as early as today whether the league deserves a permanent stay of an injunction granted to the players in Minnesota to block the lockout.

"We are in uncharted but fascinating legal territory," said agent and attorney Ralph Cindrich of Carnegie, as he examined the short-term reinstatement of the lockout by three judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "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."

If it's not, something Cindrich predicts, league business could resume almost immediately, even as more NFL appeals are filed. Cindrich believes that even though those judges voted 2-1 Friday to review the matter, they won't overturn Judge Susan Richard Nelson's determination that the lockout was preventing players from earning a living.

With the draft behind them, the 32 teams can't have contact with any players. That includes veterans, rookies just selected and undrafted free agents, who usually sign contracts hours after the draft or the next day.

"You just do what you do and abide by the guidelines the league puts out," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "Everybody's in the same boat. ... It'll eventually get settled, and you just go with it."

Going with it for the players means training on their own. For first-round picks, it means devouring the playbooks they received from their teams during Friday's short break in the lockout. For coaches, it means evaluating how they addressed their needs in the draft and which undrafted players they might approach when allowed to do so.

Even if the players win the next round in appeals court, it is uncertain how business would resume.

Among the league's options is reinstating the 2010 guidelines, which featured more limited free agency and no salary cap. And no minimum for spending, which could come into play more than ever with some owners who fear profits will continue to decline.

"It's a chaotic time," said Ben Dogra, agent for last year's No. 1 overall pick, Sam Bradford, among other players. "There are a lot of moving points, and it means daily uncertainty."

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