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NFL coaches with players in lockout battle

MINNEAPOLIS — NFL coaches are teaming up with the players in their legal fight to end the owner-imposed lockout.

The NFL Coaches Association filed a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday expressing support for the players and saying that the lockout is putting their jobs in jeopardy.

"Owners and fans increasingly demand immediate success, and coaches whose teams cannot fulfill such severe expectations face likely dismissal, which means the uprooting of families, economic dislocation, and a significantly less promising career path," lawyers for the NFLCA wrote.

No individual coaches were identified in the brief, which said that the eight new coaches hired this year face particularly daunting odds of success if the lockout is not lifted soon. The NFL grants new coaches two extra summer minicamps to get players familiar with the new staff, and the elimination of those camps puts them at a competitive disadvantage heading into the season.

"To meet management's expectations, coaches need adequate time in the offseason to prepare their players for the season ahead," the filing said. "The lockout has already interfered with the coaches' offseason plans for their players, and each day lost in preparing for the season further diminishes coaches' opportunities to prove themselves and advance their career."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was not surprised by the filing.

"The Coaches Association offices with the Players Association in Washington," Aiello wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "So this comes as no surprise."

The 8th Circuit has set a June 3 hearing to hear arguments on whether the lockout is legal. A federal judge in St. Paul, Minn., initially ruled that the lockout was illegal, but the 8th Circuit put a stay on that ruling pending the appeal.

Some coaches across the league are facing a reduction in wages and benefits during the lockout, including those employed by the Buffalo Bills, who have suspended pension payments and cut wages for all employees while the lockout is in effect.

"These income reductions are occurring amid the burdens of mortgage payments, tuition, and other life costs that do not wait for the NFL to end its lockout," the filing said.

Coaches have already lost several minicamps and the ability to institute their valued offseason workout programs, both of which get many players together starting in mid-May to prepare themselves physically and mentally for the upcoming season. Coaches rely on those programs to get on the same page with their players, institute new playbooks or tweaks to their existing schemes and make sure that players are ready for the rigors of training camp that await in August.

All of that has been put on hold during the labor dispute over how to divvy up $9 billion in revenue. Mediation has been unsuccessful while each side waits to be handed some kind of leverage through the courts, meaning no minicamps, organized team activities or group workouts in front of coaches.

"Preparation is a coach's currency, and coaches rely heavily on the offseason to prepare their players for the season," the NFLCA said. "If the NFL's lockout denies coaches the necessary time with players, coaches will be significantly more limited in their ability to prepare their teams and to prove their value as coaches."

The NFLCA said no amount of financial damages could compensate for the time lost this offseason, so they asked the 8th Circuit to uphold Judge Susan Richard Nelson's injunction of the lockout to allow the players and coaches to get back to work.

"Failure at an early stage of one's career, however, can falter career aspirations for many subsequent years," the filing said. "A lockout will significantly impinge on coaches' opportunities to prove themselves and will increase the likelihood that they will suffer failure they can neither avoid nor overcome."

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