Players, owners gather for lockout hearing

By R.B. FALLSTROM | June 3, 2011 | 10:44 AM EDT

FILE - This March 2, 2011, file photo shows NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arriving for football labor negotiations with the NFL involving a federal mediator, in Washington. Goodell and several owners have met the last two days with NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith, a group of players and a U.S. magistrate judge . A person with knowledge of the talks tells The Associated Press those mediation sessions began Tuesday and ended Wednesday, June 1, 2011, near Chicago. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The NFL and its locked-out players are back in court.

Some two dozen players were in a courtroom in St. Louis on Friday to hear arguments before a federal appeals court panel on whether the lockout is legal. The NFL put the lockout in effect after labor talks fell apart March 11 and it's been in place nearly continuously ever since.

The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already upheld the lockout twice before, overruling a judge in Minnesota. Its decision this time is considered a key step in the impasse that threatens the 2011 season.

NFL players association chief DeMaurice Smith is in the courtroom and so are players including Brian Waters and Adam Goldberg. Folding chairs were set up in front of the courtroom benches and a standing-room only crowd was expected for Friday's hour-long hearing.