Late Monday afternoon, Judge Susan Nelson issued her ruling and lifted the NFL's lockout of players.
But the NFL issued the following statement: "We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes.
"We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will
inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal."
The owners surely aren't surprised by this decision. But they also must be rattled, nonetheless, because it's a clear victory for the players.
A statement from the players is being developed as we speak.
A couple points to consider:
* There are still a lot of moving parts to this, including the National Labor Relations Board's ruling. Judge Nelson, for her part, believes the NLRB will side with the players on that, too.
* Technically, free agency can start immediately, and players can return to team facilities to work out. But, the reality is, no rules have been set, so the league's appeal tomorrow will provide more clarity on how things will proceed.