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Monday meeting notes: Kick return change in trouble?

NEW ORLEANS - A report out of the NFL meetings said Monday that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is telling the football world he doesn't expect quarterback Carson Palmer to return this season.

Which is what he told the Cincinnati media at last month's scouting combine, when after a couple of weeks of reaching out to Palmer he said the club is proceeding like he won't report.

"All I know is what's been said," said Lewis back on Feb. 25. "I just get to take it from what we know, from what I've been told, what's been said. That's the way I'm proceeding."

» The Miami Herald is reporting the Dolphins are interested in Palmer, but it's unclear what they'd give up. What's clear is that Bengals president Mike Brown isn't budging and has no plans to trade him. But Brown has yet to reprise the quote from 1999 training camp, when the agent for holdout Carl Pickens said his client would consider retiring before reporting.

Brown's response to Steve Zucker: "Happy golden years."

» The NFL competition committee's light agenda this year has allowed Lewis to visit more college campuses for Pro Days, but the NFL meeting schedule is probably going to prevent him from going to Athens, Ga., to watch Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green work on Tuesday. Lewis is going to be at the coach's annual media breakfast.

» The lockout is steaming along to the April 6 hearing in St. Paul, Minn. The NFL said Monday that the league won't negotiate with the lawyers representing the class action that has been filed against the NFL following decertification of the union. The league wants to do the deed at the bargaining table rather than do what it did in 1993 and reach a settlement. The settlement did give rise to a collective bargaining agreement, but it was overseen by Federal Judge David Doty and the league was never comfortable with the arrangement that yielded a lot of pro NFL Players Association rulings.

And there is no hard and fast timeline. NFL officials don't believe Judge Susan Nelson is going to rule from the bench after the hearing in which the NFLPA is hoping to lift the lockout with an injunction. The decision figures to be made in about a week after April 6 and either way it's going to be appealed before a panel of three judges. That would point to a late April, early May decision.

But if the NFLPA is successful in lifting the injunction and the NFL goes back to work, league officials are hoping for guidance from the court.

"If ordered back to work under the antitrust laws, how do we go back to work in a way that does not violate the antitrust laws?" one asked. "That's a question we'll ask if the court does grant an injunction requiring an end of the lockout. We'll say to the court there is an incongruity. Under the antitrust laws, you must end the lockout, but under antitrust laws you may be subject to antitrust violations just from continuing to operate as a league. So I think that's something the court is going to have to sort out. I don't think it's an easy injunction ... it's a thorny problem."

But since there are going to be "legal hoops" to be jumped through if it gets to that point, the NFL thinks it will get a clue from the rulings.

"(The court) would say what we were prevented from doing; not what we were required to do," said one NFL official.

But the league is confident there can't be an injunction because of the Norris La Guardia Act of 1932 that banned federal courts from issuing injunctions in labor disputes.

» There will be one dispute solved before then. Try Tuesday, when the owners vote on the proposed change in kick returns. More signs (beyond Lewis' suggestion that the league is trying to find the coaches a golf course when it votes) that the coaches are unhappy came Monday when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gathered the New England media and in the course of the interview ripped it. He called it "confusing," and said "I don't like the idea of eliminating the kickoff from the game."

» It looks like the proposal is getting tweaked before it even goes to a vote. There is word the two-man wedge wouldn't be abolished and that the touchback would stay at the 20-yard line instead of being moved up the 25, but the kickoff would still come from the 35.

But as Giants owner John Mara said, "We're going to have to find a golf course for the coaches tomorrow."    

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