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“NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, during a predraft event in New York, said he wasn't worried about the state of confusion tarnishing the league's image but stressed his desire to "remove" the uncertainty. "It's one of the things I don't think is healthy for the players, the clubs and most importantly our fans," he said. Attorneys for the players dismissed the NFL's argument that it risks either violating antitrust laws by coming up with new league rules without a collective bargaining agreement in place or harming its competitive balance by allowing a potential free agency free-for-all. "If the NFL defendants are faced with a dilemma, they put themselves in that position by repeatedly imposing rules and restrictions that violate the antitrust laws," the attorneys wrote. "Any alleged predicament is of their own making." The solution, the players argued, is to simply implement a system that does not violate antitrust laws. The NFL, in turn, accused the players of going way too far with an overly "sweeping" bid to get Nelson to clarify her order lifting the lockout, saying the ruling provided sufficient guidance. In response to that league filing, the players withdrew their request for clarification "given the NFL Defendants' concession that they understand their obligations." In doing so, the players "anticipate that the NFL Defendants will comply" with the order "at once." Their point: The league year should have started the second Nelson issued her injunction. The league pointed to a two-page form the players sent to Nelson, complete with blank lines for the judge to fill out, in which teams would be barred for a year from a lockout or any "contract, combination, conspiracy, boycott, concerted conduct or collective agreement" that went against player contracts. The players improperly want to get Nelson to consider the antitrust claims, which are laid out in a still-pending lawsuit that hasn't yet been aired in court, the league said. And the players' plan would have even barred the draft that begins Thursday night without free agency or other familiar hallmarks. "Aside from being expressly beyond the scope of the opinion, these are all rules to which the NFLPA had previously agreed," the league said. If Nelson grants the league's request to put the lockout back in place, a ruling both sides were still awaiting, players want the NFL to post a $1 billion bond, roughly 25 percent of player compensation last year. That got the NFL's attention. "Of course, there is no monetary judgment here that needs securing," the league said in a court filing it sought special permission from Nelson to submit. "Moreover, there has been and could be no credible showing of a risk of insolvency. ... Indeed, the plaintiffs do not suggest that they have the slightest doubt of the league's ability to pay the players, or that this Court should have any doubt." If the NFL fails to get Nelson to put her order on hold, it will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis for the same thing. The owners are also asking the appeals court, viewed as a more friendly venue to the league than the federal courts in Minnesota, to overturn Nelson's decision. Repeatedly in Wednesday's filing, the players took an argument the league has made and turned it into their own. They referred to Goodell's expression of concern that the longer the uncertainty around the 2011 season continues, the worse it is for everyone involved. The players said teams won't be harmed if the judge denies the NFL motion for a stay, meaning the league would be back in business.
If the NFL defendants are faced with a dilemma, they put themselves in that position by repeatedly imposing rules and restrictions that violate the antitrust laws. Any alleged predicament is of their own making.” -- Players' attorneys to Judge Susan Richard Nelson