NFL Lockout Lifted, San Francisco 49ers' Draft Needs Unchanged?

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IApril 26, 2011

now what?
now what?Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A federal judge temporarily ruled in favor of the NFL players union Monday, lifting the owner-imposed lockout...for now.

More a clue than an answer, this ruling raises plenty of questions.

Perhaps the franchise hurt most by the CBA debacle, the San Francisco 49ers may have the most to gain from this (small?) window of opportunity.

It's unknown exactly what they will be able to do when they get there, but it's expected that some players (who knows how many and which ones) will be showing up at team facilities today.

Players aren't really expected to work out, nor are they likely to meet with coaches and managers with the 2011 draft looming just a couple days away.

But this one small step could open the door for new coach Jim Harbaugh to meet with players and hand out his playbook sooner than later.

The timing is impeccable. Will this lifting of the lockout be a distraction to the team's all-too-important draft, the first round of which comes Thursday? Not likely. The 49ers have been focusing on the draft since Harbaugh came aboard.

The concrete on their draft strategy must be quite dry by now, and with no CBA or free-agency periods scheduled, their draft needs (and targets) should basically remain the same.

Perhaps the imminent influx of hungry young rookies is going to give the league and the union the kick in the pants they need to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement. But if that's the case, why did it take the courts to get this minimal step accomplished?

The answers may be as elusive as Barry Sanders in the '90s, but the corners and sides of puzzle are starting to come together—and we should have a much better picture of the situation after the draft.