Apparently, the U.S. Court of Appeals will do what it pleases, when it pleases.
And even the court's clerk has no insight on its actions.
After the clerk suggested a decision would not come today, the three-judge panel decided Monday that the league's lockout of players should stay in place until a full appeal is heard.
The vote was once again 2-1, with Judge Kermit Bye dissenting.
The ruling said the NFL "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay."
In addition, the two judges who backed the lockout took a swipe at Judge Susan Nelson.
"In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court [Nelson] had jurisdiction to enjoin the league's lockout, and accordingly conclude that the league has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the majority opinion said.
Meanwhile, Judge Bye wrote: "Notwithstanding the majority's analysis, the NFL has not persuaded me it will suffer irreparable harm during the pendency of this expedited appeal."
The next key date is June 3, when judges will hear arguments on the legitimacy of the lockout. But there are a lot of moving parts. After not meeting since April 20, the owners and players resumed court-ordered mediation with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan today. In addition, U.S. District Judge David Doty is figuring out how the $4 billion in broadcast revenue should be split up, since he ruled the NFL can't use it as a form of lockout insurance.
"The NFL's request for a stay of the lockout that was granted today means no football," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The players are in mediation and are working to try to save the 2011 season."
With the legal victory in hand, the NFL said it was time to focus on an agreement that "will improve the game for the benefit of current and retired players, teams, and, most importantly, the fans."
"This litigation has taken the parties away from the negotiating table where these issues should be resolved. We remain confident that the appellate court will determine that this is a labor dispute that should be governed by federal labor law. But the league and players, without further delay, should control their own destiny and decide the future of the NFL together through negotiation," the league said in a statement.
It's hard to know exactly how this is all going to go down. But, in my opinion, neither side will budge until the courts start to favor one side. That should happen after June 3.