NFL announces players can go back to work on Friday; free agency next?
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- NFL players can go back to work on Friday morning, and free agency may not be far behind.
A day after a federal judge rejected the league's request to put her order lifting the lockout on hold pending further appeals, the NFL announced late Thursday morning that players will be permitted to work out at team facilities, receive playbooks, have contact with coaches and participate in other normal offseason activities beginning at 7 a.m. Central on Friday.
The league also informed teams it will advise them on Friday morning about the rules and timeline for the start of the 2011 league year -- including free agency -- which CBSSports.com reported could begin as soon as Friday if a federal appeals court also denies the NFL's pending request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's ruling.
That could only extend the craziness in this unprecendented week for the NFL, which begins its three-day draft at 7 p.m. Thursday.
At least two Vikings players have been rebuffed in their attempts to use team facilities this week. Backup linebacker Erin Henderson was told on Tuesday morning he could not use the cold tub, and linebacker Chad Greenway told the Star Tribune he was not allowed to work out at Winter Park on Thursday.
That was consistent with most teams' policy this week -- the New York Giants allowed workouts on Tuesday, then refused on Wednesday -- but that all will change on Friday, unless the appeals court grants the league's request.
From players' perspective, the greater point of intrigue is when free agency will begin and who will be eligible.
Nineteen players who finished last season on the Vikings' 53-man roster or injured reserve are unsigned for 2011, although six of them -- safeties Husain Abdullah and Eric Frampton, offensive lineman Ryan Cook, end Ray Edwards, Henderson and receiver Sidney Rice -- received restricted tenders. If the NFL players under 2010 rules, the entire group would be restricted.
Starters certain to be unrestricted include linebacker Ben Leber, kicker Ryan Longwell, defensive tackle Pat Williams and quarterback Brett Favre, who has filed retirement papers and wouldn't be brought back anyway.
Full NFL release
The NFL clubs have been notified that we have requested from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals a stay of the preliminary injunction issued late Monday afternoon by the Federal District Court. Pending further guidance from the Eighth Circuit, we believe it is appropriate for clubs to take additional steps in response to the preliminary injunction.
The clubs were informed of the steps below that will be effective on Friday at 7 a.m. following tonight's first round of the NFL Draft. Clubs are free to contact players immediately to advise them of the hours that the facility will be open for their use, to schedule medical and rehabilitation activity, and to arrange meetings with coaches or related activity, such as film study or classroom work.
1. Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the club.
2. Clubs will be permitted to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players.
3. Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed to players under item 2 above, as well as the club's off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps, Organized Team Activities ("OTAs"), and other similar matters.
4. Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction, may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 CBA and Appendix L. Participating players will be paid $130 per day, provided the player fulfills the club's reasonable off-season workout requirements. Such workouts will count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player's contract.
5. On days during which no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled under item 4 above, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on his own on a voluntary, unpaid basis during normal business hours, or such other hours as may be set by the club, provided: (i) there is no participation or supervision by any coach, trainer or other club personnel; and (ii) the club has first verified that the player has an existing medical insurance policy in place. Players without such personal coverage should not be permitted to work out at the club facility on an unsupervised basis under this item 5, but may do so under item 4 above. Unsupervised workouts will not count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player's contract. This item 5 will apply both prior to and after the commencement of the club's official off-season workout program.
6. Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 CBA.
7. The league office will promptly make arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs. We will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.
8. Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community relations events.
With respect to player transactions (such as signings, trades of player contracts, terminations, tryouts, etc.), we plan to distribute to all clubs, likely tomorrow, a comprehensive set of procedures governing such transactions. This will include the timing for the commencement of the 2011 League Year, free agent signings and other customary player transactions.