T-Rich still envisions football in '11

Tony Richardson admitted that Monday's decision by the Eighth Court of Appeals to uphold the NFL lockout was a "big step" backward for the players, but the Jets' fullback -- a member of the former NFLPA's executive committee -- remains optimistic that there will be a season.

"The decision pushes things back, and it was a big step," Richardson told Newsday and the New York Daily News Tuesday night at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, where he and the Giants' Chris Canty were honored at the annual Gridiron Gala to benefit the United Way. "But I'm believing there's going to be football. There's a process, and we don't quite know what this thing is going to look like. We just have to keep fighting and see how this thing plays out."

Right now, the owners have the leverage, thanks to Monday's decision. Many legal experts have said that the court's wording in the ruling is so pro-owners that it appears the owners also are likely to win their appeal of the injunction that temporarily lifted the lockout -- and that appeal begins June 3. If the owners win that round, it could blow up the season -- unless the two sides agree to a deal.

In the meantime, no minicamps, no OTAs. Basically, the offseason as we know it is shot. A decision on the appeal isn't expected until mid to late June, so even if the players were to win, it would be too late to have anything close to a normal offseason. There would have to be free agency and, by the time that finished, it would almost be time to go to training camp.

"It's a process, and yes, it's hurting a lot of people," Richardson said. "We're trying to get back on the field as fast as we can.''

How does it hurt the players? Richardson mentioned the rookies and undrafted players, who can't be signed until the lockout is over. He also mentioned Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

"If he would have been in this situation (last year), there's no way he would have gone to back-to-back AFC Championship Games," he said, alluding to all the time Sanchez spent with coaches last offseason. "This is going to slow the growth of a lot of players.''