NFC South: judge ends lockout

Like many of you, I don’t know exactly what to make of a judge’s decision to immediately end the NFL’s lockout of its players. The league already is asking for relief and an expedited stay, which would mean we’d just stay in limbo (and a lockout) for the immediate future.

One of the reasons I left law school many years ago was because I was bored with studying case law and all the drudgery that comes with it. That’s why I’ll leave the legal analysis to Lester Munson, who knows much more about these matters than I ever want to. According to Munson, this situation is far from over, but this is a huge early victory for the players.

Will the lockout open the door for free agency to start instantly or for players to be traded prior to or during the draft? Will players be allowed to show up at team facilities Tuesday to do all they can to make sure they collect workout and roster bonuses? I don’t know for sure, but I’m real curious to see if the possible end to the lockout allows Carolina’s brass to take calls from a certain little guy, who may want out and has been filling up the voicemails of an owner, general manager and coach while they weren’t allowed to talk to him in the last month or so. I'm also extremely curious to see if this situation prompts some other teams to call Carolina to see if the Panthers might be interested in trading the top pick in the draft.

What I do know with certainty is that we’ll be ready to react to whatever comes out of all this as soon as there is some clarity.

I’ve got a plane ticket to Charlotte for Wednesday because the Panthers hold the No. 1 pick and still seem to control the draft. Whatever happens, we know there definitely will be a draft.

The only other thing I know for sure is that the Power Rankings on quarterbacks, the most important position in the game, will be unveiled around the middle of the day Tuesday on this blog. I’ve already written the story that goes with those rankings. I can’t reveal the results just yet, but I can tell you that it’s going to be real interesting to see how Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman were viewed by the rest of the voters.

Stay tuned.
With the NFL draft only a little over 72 hours away, things just might have gotten a lot more complicated and, in some ways, more simplistic.

Chris Mortensen reports that a judge has granted a motion for a preliminary injunction in favor of the players, who have been locked out by owners since March. Mortensen also reports the NFL is expected to file a request for an immediate stay of the order.

We’ll leave that up to the legal community to sort out. But this could mean the end of the lockout and that’s going to make things very interesting if it officially takes place before the draft. Potentially, an end to the lockout could open the door for player trades and free agency. Both of those areas have been frozen throughout the lockout.

I talked to Carolina general manager Marty Hurney a few minutes before the news broke and he said the Panthers still haven’t made a final decision on what they’ll do with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday night’s draft. Hurney said the Carolina scouts were in today for a series of meetings and there will be more meetings with coaches tomorrow.

Hurney also said he wasn’t sure if the Panthers would wait until they're on the clock Thursday night or indicate their plans before that. But I’ve got a feeling that if the lockout is indeed lifted, the Panthers absolutely will wait until they’re on the clock to show their intentions.

They’d be foolish not to. If players suddenly are available to be included in trades, the Panthers could be getting some phone calls they probably should at least listen to.