Published November 20, 2014
With a new coaching staff and now Cam Newton on board as the No. 1 overall draft pick, perhaps no team would benefit more from an end to the lockout than the Carolina Panthers.
For one day only, Newton and veteran players got to meet with new coach Ron Rivera and collect playbooks before the courts ordered another halt to activities.
"We want to play football, we really do," said center Ryan Kalil, one of about a dozen players spotted at Bank of America Stadium Friday morning. "It's nice that we finally have a chance to come back in here and talk with some of the coaches and just get the band back together again, you know?"
It didn't last.
After the NFL opened for business at 8 a.m., a federal appeals court in St. Louis late Friday granted the owners' request to temporarily put on hold U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson's ruling that lifted the lockout.
The league reinstated the lockout late Friday, pending the next decision by the three-judge panel next week.
"Let the vacation resume," running back Tyrell Sutton wrote on Twitter before adding, "At least I got my playbook. I'm ahead of the curve."
Perhaps it was no surprise Jimmy Clausen was among the first players to arrive at dawn on Friday. Clausen's job as the starting QB is in jeopardy after Carolina selected Newton, the Heisman Trophy-winning former Auburn star, with the first pick a night earlier.
Fellow QBs Tony Pike and Matt Moore, who is unsigned and recovering from a shoulder injury, also showed up.
"It's a little weird to be back here," Moore said.
There was no sign of receiver Steve Smith, whose future with the team is uncertain. But others quickly got into a routine in an offseason devoid of it.
Guard Duke Robinson, suspended for the final four games last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was an early arrival. Linebacker Dan Connor, recovering from a broken hip, was spotted working out in a weight room.
"It's not just a legal move to get the doors open," Kalil said. "It's a place for guys to get treatment, to work out. A lot of guys really do need direction."
But now players are barred again from team facilities pending another round of court action.
"We have to play by the rules and that's what we're going to do," Rivera said. "Until we're told otherwise now, I guess those are the rules."
After little progress was made toward a new labor deal, the owners locked out the players last month, leading to the latest legal action.
The NFL was forced to put rules in place that allowed for players to show up at team facilities Friday morning. That helped teams with new coaching staffs such as the Panthers, who are scrambling to make up for lost time in putting in a new system.
"We definitely need all the work we can get going into this season," Kalil said.
The coaching staff was putting together a schedule of workouts and a minicamp, but that's now uncertain again.
"We'll be fluid," Rivera said.