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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL has promised to give its teams guidance on what to do after another stinging rebuke from the same federal judge who lifted the lockout.

Whether that includes rules for free agency, the NFL draft that begins Thursday night or simply whether players can talk with their coaches was anyone's guess.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson late Wednesday rejected the NFL's request to put her order lifting the lockout on hold pending further appeals. She dismissed the NFL's argument that she didn't have jurisdiction and that it's facing irreparable harm because of her decision to end the 45-day lockout at the request of the players.

"The world of 'chaos' the NFL claims it has been thrust into — essentially the 'free-market' system this nation otherwise willfully operates under — is not compelled by this court's order," Nelson wrote.

And yet chaos there may be, perhaps as early as Thursday, the first day of the NFL draft.

James Quinn, a lawyer for the players, said free agency — the biggest immediate question for owners and players alike — should start immediately. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is "evaluating the district court's decision" and would advise teams Thursday morning on how to proceed.

The NFL Players Association, now a trade group and not a union, accused the league of stalling.

"On the eve of one of the greatest fan events in sports, the players moved another step closer to bringing the fans football," spokesman George Atallah said in an email to The Associated Press. "Owners seem determined to prevent that from happening. The NFL owners are not litigating to protect the game. They're litigating to protect a lockout."

Nelson's ruling was not a surprise, given her questioning of NFL attorney David Boies during an April 6 hearing and her 89-page order lifting the lockout. She wrote another 20 pages in her denial, declaring the public's interest in the resumption of league operations.

The judge acknowledged her decision will be appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, and Aiello said that step was being taken immediately. The appellate court is viewed as a more friendly venue to businesses like the league than the federal courts in Minnesota.

"We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented," Aiello said.

League rules have effectively been shelved since the collective bargaining agreement ended on March 11 and the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 began.

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