Minnesota Judge Susan Nelson suggested that the NFL Players Association and league owners continue negotiations, as she will take a "couple of weeks" to reach a decision on whether to grant an injunction to lift the NFL's lockout.
"It seems to me both sides are at risk, and now is a good time to come back to the table," Nelson said in a report from Albert Breer of NFL Network.
The injunction request, which required a union decertification, was made by NFL players who are suing the league on antitrust grounds, arguing their careers would be irreparably harmed by work stoppage.
The players believe that the union decertified in a legal manner, requiring the 32 clubs to deal with a non-union workforce. The owners believe that the decertification is a "sham" to end the lockout and both parties need to get back to the negotiation table.
"(A resolution) can happen, if we just get back to bargaining," NFL outside counsel David Boies told a group of reporters after the hearing. "The Federal Mediation Service, as I said before, these are the people who do it for a living, they do it in industry after industry. We ought to be taking advantage of that."
In addition, Judge Nelson opted to combine the Brady et al case with another headed by Hall of Famer Carl Eller against the league.
From Breers: "Nelson heard the cases of Brady et al v. the National Football League et al and Eller et al v. the National Football League et al, and she approved a motion to consolidate both. Hall of Famer Carl Eller, the lead plaintiff in the second case filed by retirees, former players and rookies, was present, and his group's attorney, Michael Hausfeld, took turns with NFLPA outside counsel James Quinn arguing against and rebutting Boies."
Nelson's push towards more mediation and decision to mull the hearing gives both sides some more time to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
Once her decision comes down, however, it could take months to resolve the appeal process. If she rules in favor of the players, the lockout could immediately end, as both sides continue to work things out under the 2010 CBA rules. If it is an owners decision, the work stoppage continues, and there will be no football until a new CBA is reached.
"One of the problems, as the court indicated, even if there was an injunction relating to the lockout, that wouldn't solve the problem of how you operate the league," Boies said. "So that really just delays the process. The underlying issues have to be resolved by collective bargaining.
"The fastest way for this to get resolved is for the parties to get back to good-faith negotiating."