The Big Cat will not conduct business during this period without the NFL's blessing. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
I'm sure by now you have heard exactly what is going on with the NFL and Judge Susan Nelson's ruling on the lockout. One new development this morning is news from ESPN that teams have been instructed to open their doors to players this morning, but not allow them to work out in weight rooms in case of injury- basically NFL teams aren't really sure what's going on.
On 'Mike & Mike in the Morning' today they were discussing the 89 page opinion of Judge Nelson as being 'appeal proof'. Essentially she wanted to make an indelible mark on these proceedings and she's done just that. The feeling now is that she will not grant a stay, and even with an emergency ruling by the 8th circuit court it would likely be June before a stay could be granted.
What this means is that from now until June the league will be regulating itself, and teams will be choosing to move forward on their own terms- when it comes to being a fan of the Carolina Panthers this mean you're likely to be mad, disappointed and saddened... sorry, but there's no sugar coating it.
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I say this because Jerry Richardson is not going to cross the owner's lines and cannibalize the league for his own gain. I guarantee you that no matter what if the NFL's opinion is that no business should be conducted, then Jerry Richardson isn't going to conduct any business. At this point it would be too hypocritical of Jerry Jones to conduct business either, but owners like Dan Snyder, Ziggy Wilf or Al Davis have little or no loyalty to the grand ideals of the NFL.
Let's not forget that last year the owners were supposedly in agreement that no mega contracts should be handed out without a CBA in place- then the Chicago Bears signed Julius Peppers. There will always be a team who crosses the lines for their own gain in these situations, but the Carolina Panthers (along with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers) will never do so.
This is where the frustration of fans sets in, and the mettle is tested. Perhaps Marty Hurney would love to make a trade for Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb, maybe this does represent the best opportunity for the Panthers to move Steve Smith, but I believe there is almost no chance Jerry Richardson would sign off on these moves unless the league gives it's blessing to business as usual.
The same can be said for the free agent market. There has been growing frustration over the past 18 months in the Panthers lack of willingness to sign free agents. In reality, this has been largely due to a tacit understanding that business like signing players should not be conducted without a CBA in place. Richardson will not sign free agents from other teams without a CBA, you can put that in stone. It simply wont happen no matter how frustrating it may be for fans to understand.
To the average Panthers' fan this fight between owners and players means nothing- they just want to see football again; heck, we all do. In the end though part of being a fan of this team is understanding that its owner will remain principled, even if it means shooting himself in the foot in the short term. Unfortunately, fans are the ones who will feel that pain also.