INDIANAPOLIS - Armed with a key victory in the courts, NFL owners gathered Monday for their annual spring meetings.
Usually, it's a time for discussing Super Bowl sites and rules changes. This year, the 32 owners primarily talked strategy for this summer as the labor impasse goes through court proceedings.
They might even gloat a bit after obtaining a permanent stay of an injunction blocking the lockout of the players that began March 12. The labor situation remains something of a stalemate, locked in the courts until the league's full appeal of that injunction is heard June 3. But the 2-1 ruling on the stay contained strong language indicating the NFL will win its appeal.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said owners were to be filled in on "all aspects of the labor situation and various business reports."
Basically, not much action is required by the league until the legality of the lockout is determined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis. While the lockout is in force, teams can't communicate with players - and NFL teams are dead in the water when it comes to training for the 2011 season.
That stagnation could threaten the start of training camps at the end of July - at the very least.
Commissioner Roger Goodell continually emphasizes the need for face-to-face discussions between the league and the players.
"The sooner we get back to the negotiating table, the more we can address those issues in a timely fashion and get to what everybody wants, which is football," he said. "In the meantime, we've done everything to prepare for 2011."
That includes several significant rules clarifications, one of which was tabled during the annual league meetings in March, but will be voted on this week.
It involves a clearer definition of a defenseless receiver, which also could apply to a player intercepting a pass. The new rule, if adopted, would incorporate all defenseless players into one category and expand the protection for the defenseless receiver.
Judge sets deadline. A federal magistrate in Minneapolis rejected the NFL's request for more time to file a response in the pending antitrust lawsuit filed by its locked-out players.
Judge Jeanne Graham ruled that the NFL must answer by June 6. The league had asked for a July 6 deadline to answer a lawsuit filed by current players but since amended to included complaints from retirees led by Hall of Famer Carl Eller.