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NFL’s No. 2 Pick Is Lockout-Blocking Lawsuit Plaintiff Miller

Von Miller celebrated his selection by the Denver Broncos with the second pick in the National Football League draft by strolling across the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York to embrace the man he’s suing.

Miller, 22, shook the hand of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being welcomed to the stage by cheers from fans who had earlier booed Goodell and repeatedly chanted “we want football.”

Miller is the only rookie among 10 named plaintiffs who have successfully challenged the NFL’s lockout of players in a class-action lawsuit that accuses the league of antitrust violations and wage fixing.

“I think they checked my background to know I’m not a troublemaker and I’m not a guy that just looks for attention,” Miller, who won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker at Texas A&M University, told reporters after his pick. “I’m a team guy. Whatever it takes to help my team is what I do. That’s one of the main reasons why I joined.”

A day after Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul, Minnesota, declined to delay enforcing her April 25 decision to end the lockout, the NFL said players will have full access to team practice facilities starting today. They’ll be able to work out, seek medical treatment and meet with coaches.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, which abandoned its role as a union in collective bargaining to file the players’ lawsuit last month, compared Miller with the association’s first president, John Mackey, who led a lawsuit against the league in 1977.

‘New Group of Legends’

“Today on the players’ side there’s a new group of legends,” Smith told reporters at a reception at a Times Square hotel. “We are certainly not done with all the challenges that confront us, but I do know that, when people can say Von Miller’s name alongside John Mackey’s name, that’s a good day for football and our fans and a great day for our country.”

NFL owners yesterday asked a federal appeals court to delay enforcement of Nelson’s ruling ending the month-old lockout. The league told the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Nelson “brushed aside” legal obstacles in her decision.

Players asked the appeals court to hold “in abeyance” the NFL’s request for a delay in enforcement of the lockout ban “until we have an opportunity” to file a response. The players intend to file opposition to the league’s motion by noon today, said their lawyer, Theodore B. Olson, in a letter to the court, which is based in St. Louis.

Tears, Hugs

Miller attended the draft and the welcoming reception held by players. When the Broncos called to inform him of his selection, television cameras showed him tearing up, hugging his family and donning his suit jacket before heading out to meet Goodell.

Miller said that, during those moments, he remembered his entire football career, from youth leagues, through his high school and college ranks to the present.

“I just remembered the adversity I’ve been through and what it took to overcome that,” he said. “I was just extremely grateful to have this opportunity to prove myself in the National Football League.”

Miller called Broncos coach John Fox a “guru” and “a wizard” and said he looked forward to proving himself in Denver. He said his role in the lawsuit wouldn’t impact his performance on the field.

“It hasn’t been a distraction and I feel like it’s not going to be a distraction,” he said. “I’m a little away from the world, but when I get back to my cell phone, I’m sure I’ll be updated with all that stuff.”

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