Just to quickly bring you up to speed - just in case you've been under a rock for the past month or so - the NFL players filed for an injunction, or ruling, to be made, which would block the current lockout being imposed by the league.
Judge Susan Nelson will preside over the case. And essentially, one of four things will happen sometime (probably not immediately) following the hearing this Wednesday, April 6.
1. Nelson rules in favor of the players and blocks the lockout:
If this happens, football will be back...for now. The facilities will open; off-season workout can commence; free agents can be purchased; the world as we have come to know it, will make sense again! OK, strike that last one.
The only issue with this scenario, is that one would assume the owners would file for appeal. Some have already reported that the owners fully intend to do so, should the judge rule in favor of the players.
If the owners do file appeal, they will likely have to wait upwards of a month to be heard. During that time, it will be business as usual in the NFL world. It's not likely that Judge Nelson's ruling would be overturned.
If the appeal is denied, the lockout would be gone for good and the NFL would return to 2010 rules: No salary cap, with four and five year players still considered restricted free agents. The 2011 season would happen.
The players and owners would still have to negotiate a new contract, but there would still be a lot standing in the way of that. The NFL filed a motion with the NLRB (labor board) stating that the player's decision to decertify was a "sham," since they fully intend to resume once a deal is finalized. But they can't reach a "deal," or a contract, without a union. After all, they gave up their rights to collectively bargain...
2. Nelson rules in favor of the owners and upholds the lockout:
Same as before. If the Judge rules in the owner's favor, the lockout continues. The players will most certainly file for appeal, and we'll have more of the same for a month or so.
Now, if the players appeal is denied, they have two choices. Either go back to the bargaining table - which the NFL has said it wants - or continue pursuit of the antitrust lawsuit. In terms of the latter, the players would be putting themselves in a position of potentially waiting out the owners (think dollar signs). And that's not where they want to be.
If this does happen...OH, God I hope it doesn't happen...it will be the most devastating thing that has happened thus far, threatening the 2011 season. Some believe, however, that this scenario is the least likely of the four.
3. Nelson delays the hearing:
You see, the players have to convince Judge Nelson that the lockout IS (right now) causing them irreparable damages. If the Judge determines, for example, that the players will not suffer these damages until, say, the typical start of training camp, she may delay until that time.
But, if Nelson were to rule that way, she would in a sense be admitting to the fact that the players will indeed ultimately suffer these damages. And why wait for the wrong, in order to impose the right. It is, nevertheless, a good possibility.
I cannot see a scenario in which this would make more sense than at least two of these other four options...
4. Nelson forces the players and owners back to negotiations:
This option seems to be the most interesting of the four. And if I'm Nelson - although I have no legal reason to back this up - I would probably vote for this one. You see, if she orders them back to the table, she has the authority to preside over those sessions and rule at a later date.
I happen to think that this is the best possible scenario for all involved. Having a judge presiding over mediation sessions, could help to weed out the slick tactics and focus on getting a deal done for both sides.
She would also have the authority to ask the NFL to prove its case by opening up its books. If they drop that argument, they will not have to do so. But if they intend to make an argument, they will be asked - this time by a federal Judge - to prove it.
At anytime during these sessions Nelson could make a ruling on the lockout. Why do I want to see this scenario? It means a deal is done. It may not be soon, but it gets done. I don't just want football in 2011; I want it for many, many, years to come.
Keep in mind that you're getting the simple version. No matter what scenario, there will be many questions to follow.