Keep lockout going, league asks judges

Brief says appeal won't be lengthy

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MINNEAPOLIS --- With its players again barred from work, the NFL told a federal appeals court Monday that the fight over whether the lockout is legal won't get in the way of the 2011 season.

The rest of the labor fight? That's anyone's guess.

The league filed an 18-page brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, arguing that the lockout should remain in effect permanently while appeals play out.

The court put U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order lifting the 45-day lockout on hold temporarily last week. The owners reinstated the lockout a few hours later, and they want a more permanent stay of Nelson's order so they can argue that it should be overturned altogether.

A decision from the appeals court is expected soon.

The players have argued there is no guarantee appeals can be wrapped up in time for the regular season, but the NFL said the process -- thanks to a request for an expedited hearing -- is more a matter of weeks than months.

Still, the St. Louis Rams announced via Twitter that they're pushing back the deadline for renewing season tickets to June 1 to allow fans "flexibility given the current labor uncertainty." Other teams have previously adjusted prices and renewal plans to account for the lockout.

The players have a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NFL that is pending before Nelson. But the legality of the lockout has essentially become the fight for now, with both sides arguing over whether Nelson has jurisdiction and the notion of irreparable harm -- a claim that has been prominent in nearly every court filing since the collective bargaining agreement fell apart March 11 and the NFL stumbled into its first work stoppage since the 1987 strike.

Nelson agreed with the players that they were suffering such harm when she lifted the 45-day lockout April 25.

The league has argued, and did again Monday, that Nelson's order must be stayed or it "would irreparably harm the NFL by undercutting its labor law rights and irreversibly scrambling the eggs of player-club transactions."

The NFL also complained that Nelson ignored evidence that many players, including two of the 10 plaintiffs, Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins, skip team-organized workouts in the offseason. Jackson and Mankins both held out into the start of the 2010 season.


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