NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — A federal magistrate has rejected the NFL’s request for more time to file a response in the pending antitrust lawsuit filed by its locked-out players.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeanne Graham ruled Monday that the NFL must answer by June 6. The league had asked for a July 6 deadline to answer a lawsuit filed by current players but since amended to included complaints from retirees led by former Hall of Famer Carl Eller.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments June 3 on the legality of the ongoing lockout.

“The court acknowledges that the injunction of the lockout is on appeal, but there are other significant factors weighing strongly in favor of moving forward with the rest of the case,” Graham wrote. “Regardless of the ruling on appeal, this case is likely to proceed” on other grounds.

Meanwhile, armed with a key victory in the courts, NFL owners gathered Monday for their annual spring meetings.

Usually, it’s a time for discussing Super Bowl sites and rules changes. This year, the 32 owners primarily will talk strategy for this summer as the labor impasse goes through court proceedings.

They might even gloat a bit after obtaining a permanent stay of an injunction blocking the lockout of the players that began March 12. The labor situation remains something of a stalemate, locked in the courts until the league’s full appeal of that injunction is heard June 3. But the 2-1 ruling on the stay contained strong language indicating the NFL will win its appeal.

“I think as time goes on everybody on both sides realizes that this doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get easier,” NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said after attending committee meetings. “I think people are also realizing that the litigation alternative is not one that’s going to get a quick resolution. … Everyone focuses on the next court date and it sort of freezes people in place.

“The only way we’re going to solve this is by saying, ‘OK, let’s put this behind us. Let’s put the litigation on hold and let’s solve our own problems.'”

Basically, not much action is required by the league until the legality of the lockout is determined by the 8th U.S. District Court in St. Louis. While the lockout’s in force, teams can’t communicate with players — and NFL teams are dead in the water when it comes to training for the 2011 season.

That stagnation could threaten the start of training camps at the end of July — at the very least.

Commissioner Roger Goodell continually emphasizes the need for face-to-face discussions between the league and the players.

“The sooner we get back to the negotiating table the more we can address those issues in a timely fashion and get to what everybody wants, which is football,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ve done everything to prepare for 2011.”

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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