Players association won't recommend draft boycott

NEW YORK — The NFL Players Association announced Monday that it will not recommend that incoming rookies boycott next month's draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

Speculation swirled recently that the union would urge top-rated players to shun the draft and a chance to shake hands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on television. But George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs, said the union would not do so.

The NFLPA decertified as a union March 11 and now serves as a trade association for the players. The NFL locked out veterans after the decertification, and questions arose about whether rookies should attend the April 28-30 draft. They will be invited to an NFLPA reception and dinner at a Times Square hotel April 28, but the event will end before the draft's scheduled 8 p.m. start.

Also, the NFLPA on Monday filed a response to the legal brief the NFL submitted last week in a case in which the union seeks to end the lockout. Judge Susan Nelson will hear the NFLPA's request for an injunction April 6 in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

The response pointed out that owners agreed in 1993, as part of the Reggie White settlement that led to unrestricted free agency, that the NFLPA could decertify when the CBA expired and that owners could not contend that such action constituted a "sham," as the NFL now claims.

The brief also argues that the league's unfair labor practices charge against the NFLPA was not relevant to whether an injunction should be issued. The brief argued that the same thing happened when the NFLPA decertified in 1989 and funded the Freeman McNeil/White case that led to the league's free-agency system.

If Nelson grants an injunction, the league could resume operations within weeks. However, the NFL would appeal and it's uncertain whether the lockout would be reinstituted if the league wins an appeal. If Nelson rejects the request for an injunction, the lockout would continue.

Ten players, led by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, have filed an antitrust suit against the league in which they seek an end to the lockout. The suit also claims that the league's draft and free-agency system violate antitrust law.

Additionally, four former players, including Vikings defensive end Carl Eller and Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, filed a federal class action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL on Monday in a further bid to end the lockout. Eller v. NFL, which first was reported by Yahoo! Sports, covers former players as well as draft-eligible prospects not currently represented by the NFLPA.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday night the league hadn't had a chance to review the case and therefore had no comment.

The league and the NFLPA were also at odds over a recent ruling by Federal Judge Paul Crotty of the Southern District of New York. The NFLPA said the injunction required all teams and owners to stop seeking to reduce worker's compensation benefits due to former players as a result of injuries they suffered while playing the game.

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