Judge Nelson's ruling during the NFL Draft weekend more than a week ago seemed like a big win for the players. Nelson ruled strongly in favor of Brady et al. and made the case nearly appeal proof, then later denied the NFL's request for a stay of the ruling. Then based on an appeal made to the Eighth Circuit court, the lockout was put back into effect while an expedited hearing was arranged. What does this mean for fans? More waiting.
Basically, before the new CBA can be discussed, we have to know where both sides stand. The legal battle is essentially a bargaining chip for each side. If the Players ultimately win the court cases, the NFL would take huge losses at the bargaining table. They would lose the right to lock players out, and billions of dollars in the form of TV contracts, forcing them to give more than they already did in the last CBA. The owners losses would be extraordinary if they lost the TV contract lawsuit, I believe more so than the lifting of the lockout. Without the cash flow coming in from TV contracts, the NFL would become desperate to get the teams playing again.
If, on the other hand, the court upholds the NFL's right to lock players out and get paid for TV rights, the NFL could potentially be willing to let the lockout run for a good long while. Rather than allow that to happen, players will likely cave and get back to the bargaining table, except this time the ball would be in the NFL's court. After all, the players did make the case that the lockout can cause a loss of earning potential that can't be monetarily expressed.
So it seems as though we are stuck waiting out the court decisions. The Eighth Circuit court is thought to be pro-business. There is no guarantee of whose side they will rule for, but either way nothing will get done until the legal battle has played itself out.
On the plus side, after this legal battle is over, all the cards are on the table. The lockout was the NFL's trump card and attacking the NFL's right to collect on TV contracts is the ace up the Players' sleeve. Currently, the expedited hearing of the Brady et al. vs NFL case is set to be heard on June 3rd. Once that happens, negotiations should resume with both sides fully knowing the score. Going beyond that point would sabotage both groups and put a question mark over all of next season. The Players want to play, and the NFL wants to make money. Both sides want a new CBA, it's just that both sides also want to make more money.