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Court will hear NFL's lockout appeal June 3

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A federal appeals court Tuesday scheduled a hearing for June 3 in St. Louis on the NFL’s appeal of a judge’s decision to end the sport’s lockout. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will hold the hearing.

The NFL reimposed the lockout Friday after three appellate judges granted the league’s request for a temporary stay of the April 25 preliminary injunction, which lifted the original lockout.The stay temporarily delays implementation of that order by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

The three appeals court judges—Steven M. Colloton, Duane Benton and Kermit E. Bye—also are considering an NFL request for a longer stay of the injunction that would remain in effect until the appeal is resolved. That ruling is likely to be made in the next few days. Until then, the temporary stay they granted Friday remains in effect.

If the longer stay is granted, the lockout would remain in effect until a ruling by the court on the NFL’s appeal after the June 3 hearing. If the league’s request for a stay pending its appeal is denied, the sport might be forced back into operation.

But the NFL could take its request for a delay to the entire appellate court.

The NFL announced a set of return-to-work rules last Thursday, three days after Nelson granted the players’ request to end the lockout. Those rules allowed players to work out at teams’ facilities, receive playbooks and speak to coaches, among other provisions. Some players went back to work Friday.

But the NFL rescinded those rules Friday night and reimposed the lockout after the appeals court granted the temporary hold.

The NFL has not announced when it plans to start free agency or the rules that would govern free agent signings. Such a plan would have to be enacted if the lockout is lifted indefinitely. The NFL might use last season’s rules, which did not include a salary cap.

The NFL’s team owners locked out players March 12. One day earlier, the players dissolved their union and filed an antitrust lawsuit against owners, and began to seek an injunction to halt the lockout.

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