Mason: After ruling, players are 'still kind of in limbo'

No Ravens show up at Castle a day after federal judge lifts lockout, though wide-out says that will change before end of week

April 26, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Caught somewhere between courtroom acrimony and a forced truce in the NFL's labor dispute, Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason celebrated the players' legal victory with a workout and a word of caution Tuesday.

"We're still kind of in limbo because the owners want to appeal," the veteran wide receiver said. "Before we bring out the trumpets and the banners, we've got to see what the 8th Circuit Court will have to say. We're confident, but we still understand it can change in the blink of an eye."

The NFL players' trade association, formerly the NFL Players Association, scored a major triumph in Minnesota on Monday when U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson lifted the six-week NFL lockout of its workforce. League owners will eventually take the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but confusion ruled Tuesday as neither side knew exactly when Nelson's injunction was to begin.

Some NFL players reported to their team's facilities only to be turned away. That wasn't the case in Owings Mills, though. No players attempted to enter the Castle, but that, Mason said, was more circumstance than anything else.

"A lot of people are not there," he said. "A lot of them had in the back of their minds that this would go a long time. They are in other states working out. Before the end of the week, you'll see guys starting to trickle in."

Mason said he would have gone to the facility Tuesday had he been here instead of Scottsdale, Ariz., where he has been working out with quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs and a handful of other teammates.

"I miss the place — I miss the people inside," Mason said.

As a free agent after two seasons with the Ravens, cornerback Chris Carr said he couldn't report to the Ravens' facility — or any other facility — but he was not surprised by Nelson's ruling.

"This decision is what I expected," Carr said in an email. "I would have been surprised otherwise. … Right now the lockout is ended, so I think the decision will stay and be in effect after all the appeals. If the decision is overturned, then I will start thinking about where we go from there."

Ravens president Dick Cass declined to comment when asked how the team planned to handle the anticipated arrival of players. Team executives, scouts and coaches were in the building and remained busy preparing for the first round of the draft, which begins Thursday.

Jeff Pash, general counsel for the NFL, said in an ESPN interview that "we intend to comply with court orders. We're going to do it in an orderly way."

The NFL on Monday asked Nelson for a stay on the injunction to lift the lockout, but the lack of preparation for her decision was evident by the league's reaction.

"Everyone was caught with their pants down because nobody considered the idea there'd be no stay," said Jason Chayut, a New York-based player agent with Sportstars Inc. "I find that hard to believe."

DeMaurice Smith, who represents the players as former executive director of the NFLPA, was more succinct.

"To be in a world where guys are showing up because they want to play football and are being told to go home … look, it's petty and small at best," he told ESPN.

Chayut said his company recommended players with offseason workout incentives to make the effort to go to their facilities to work out. But he hoped for less spite and more compromise.

"There's a deal to be made, and hopefully cooler heads will prevail," Chayut said.

For the moment at least, the players have gained leverage in the dispute. But Mason wasn't in a mood to gloat.

"To me, it's not about leverage," he said. "Let's get a deal done. At the end of the day, a deal still has to be done; there's a process to go through.

"It's good for the fans, it's good for those who work the game on Sundays. Their glass is half-full now. We want to keep it that way."

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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