In her decision favorable to the players in their lawsuit against the NFL owners, federal judge Susan Nelson cited Peyton Manning's status as a free agent as being a reason why, 'the public interest does not favor the lockout.'
From Sean Leahy of USA Today:
Nelson cites free agent Peyton Manning being denied opportunity to negotiate a contract as in a 'free market'
This is interesting in that what Nelson is saying is that by having an owner imposed lockout, the players (i.e., people like Manning) 'have demonstrated they are suffering, and will continue to suffer, irreparable harm.' Now, for a guy like Manning, who earned more money from the NFL last year than anyone, I don't think the judge means 'harm' the way people like you and me define the word.
What she is saying is that by having the NFL lockout its players, it's preventing all free agents (from the Peyton Mannnings to the T.J. Rushings of this league) from signing a contract and making a living. No contract equals no money. No money equals no food, no house, no nothing. No food, no house, no nothing means 'harm.'
For those of you out there wondering why Peyton Manning did not sign his contract prior to the NFL lockout, this is why.
Manning was the highest profile player listed as a plaintiff who was a free agent entering this uncertain labor situation. By listing him as a named plaintiff in the case, and by showing he was unable to negotiate his contract in a 'free market' because of the lockout, it made it easy for Nelson to rule in the players' favor on this particular issue.
That's just how I read it.
It will be interesting to see if this decision strips away the bogus 'franchise tag' the Colts placed on Manning prior to the CBA ending.