If lockout's over, why is NFL locking out players?

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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In what was arguably the craziest, most insane, most ridiculous 48-hour period in NFL history, the Giants and Jets did their part and were polar opposites. One prevented its own players from working out in their own facilities, and the other let them in.

The Jets told D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who has a $750,000 workout bonus in his contract, thanks but no thanks. Now, take your butt home. Ferguson said his 15 minutes there were "awkward." But the Giants allowed defensive end Chris Canty, who wanted to get some work in, into their facility.

Across football, these are strange days. The NFL now stands for Nonstop Frantic Lunacy. It is the owners, without question, acting like children and the players, fresh off an impressive court victory wondering what the hell just happened.

While some of the things occurring at the NFL's team facilities may not directly violate Judge Susan Nelson's ruling they sure are violating the spirit of it. The league says it cannot allow players to work out in team complexes because of insurance concerns, but that excuse rings slightly hollow particularly because in some cases teams are barely letting players into the front door.

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One player, who declined to use his name for fear of retribution from the NFL, said one group of players arrived at their facility, were taken into a conference room by an attorney working for that team, given a letter, and then politely asked to leave. Players for the Cleveland Browns say they were asked to leave and were handed a letter than asked for patience and no contact was allowed with coaching staff.

Another player said when he arrived, no one was within sight of a normally busy place. The facility was like a ghost town but when he tried to enter the weight room, it was closed and locked. Another player described how he entered, saw a scout he knows across a long hallway, and the scout quickly headed in the other direction. He was later politely asked to leave by security.

Tweeted Washington receiver Anthony Armstrong who entered the Redskins' facility: "Felt like I was underage sneaking into the club! Got some cleats though."

Bizarre, on top of crazy, wrapped in insanity. That's what's happening now.

In Pittsburgh, players Charlie Batch and Ryan Clark arrived to a locked facility. Then it was unlocked. Both men, part of the NFLPA, once inside, were greeted by Art Rooney II, the team president, and coach Mike Tomlin. They were informed of their ban from the locker and weight rooms, and then departed soon after.

"We can't do anything until they tell us the NFL calendar year is starting," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

These are great, uncharted territories. Nothing like this has happened in the NFL before. Nothing like this has maybe happened ever in any sport.

It is also getting nasty. Tweeted Washington linebacker Robert Henson, who went to the Redskins' facility: "I just had first taste of rejection from the Redskins staff, and found out their jobs are being threatened if they help us." He added: "Man why sneak into work only to looked at like a stranger!! This has got to stop somewhere." And there was this: "This is how you treat the people who (make) you millions? More importantly the people who spend millions, this economy falls without this game."

Is it a little grandiose to say the American economy fails without football? Um, yeah, it is. But it's also a sign of how brutal things are right now and how owners are acting with great petulance.

Nelson ruled for the players and ended the lockout. In defense of the owners, Nelson didn't set up exactly what should come next. That ruling is expected within the next few days as the players have asked her to immediately start the league year. So sometime soon (maybe) this chaotic mess will end.

And what a chaotic mess it has been.

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