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New England Patriots Links 4/28/11 - Feeling A Draft As The NFL Is Forced Back To Work

Mike Reiss highlights a few nuggets from Bill Belichick's NFLN interview with Stacey Dales.

Drafting for need vs. best player available. Belichick discussed the dangers in reaching for need, pointing out that it doesn't make sense to do so because if the player doesn't pan out, the team would be back in the same position next year. "If it happens to be at a position we'd like, great, but as long as long as it's a good player that will be the type of person and player we want in our program, then I think we'll be happy with that pick," he said.

Assessing the sweet spots of the draft. Belichick touched on some of the strengths of this draft in his view. "Player-wise, this year, there is certainly a lot of depth in certain positions. Obviously the defensive line, offensive line, receivers. Then as you look at the entire group, there is a lot of depth in the running back and defensive back positions -- maybe not right up at the top but certainly it looks like there are a lot of players there who will be big contributors at some point." Belichick also repeated his belief that there will be a lot of defensive lineman selected early and the teams that evaluate that area best will, in time, probably be the ones who do the best in the draft.

Youth on the roster won't affect much. Belichick was asked about having so much youth on the roster, and if it will impact his approach in the draft. "I don't think it really affects us too much," he responded. "I think we still go back to our core philosophy of trying to find the best players we can for our football team, and let them compete with the guys that are here, and we'll see how all that plays out. Whether that's new players coming on to the team or players on the team raising their level of play. If it makes the team better, that's what it's all about."

Michael McCann (SI) Sports Law: Judge's ruling means NFL must get back to work -- sans restrictions.

1. What does Judge Nelson's decision mean? It means that NFL teams must resume business operations and allow players to work out, practice and conduct other normal activities. While teams are not obligated to conduct organized practices or even provide coaching sessions, players must be allowed the same employment opportunities they would typically enjoy.

Teams will most likely comply with Judge Nelson's order. Team officials who refuse the order would be subject to penalty -- including monetary fines or even imprisonment -- for disregarding a court order. Judge Nelson could also request enforcement assistance from the U.S. Marshal Service, the federal agency entrusted with enforcing court orders. If necessary, marshals could be asked to escort players into team facilities. If players believe that teams are in any way limiting their access to facilities, expect Judge Nelson to take decisive action against teams and their officials.

2. Judge Nelson said the NFL has to get back to business. What will be the rules for free agency, the salary cap and other critical components of NFL football?

Here's the dilemma for the NFL: with the NFLPA decertified, the NFL cannot collectively bargain any rules, and only collectively bargained rules are exempt from antitrust law. The NFL is thus faced with the onerous task of figuring out a set of restraints on competition that would ensure that the league can function effectively, but not prove so anticompetitive that the restraints violate federal antitrust law. The NFL, with its emphasis on team sharing and competitive balance, is probably the least-equipped of the four major pro sports leagues to withstand antitrust scrutiny.