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Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn a lower court ruling and allow free agency in the NFL, player salaries would rise but "stay within in the confines of the industry," a leading sports attorney said.

The Bush administration has recommended the high court hear an antitrust lawsuit filed by the National Football League Players Association against team owners.

The players argue in the case "Powell vs. NFL" that put limits on their ability to be free agents violate antitrust laws.

"It would be the same thing as free agency in basketball and baseball," said Bob Woolf, who represents some of professional sports' biggest names, among them quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde of Tampa Bay and Don Majkowski of Green Bay. "It would elevate salaries to a certain extent but stay within the confines of the industry."

The NFLPA has not had a collective bargaining agreement with the owners since Aug. 31, 1987. It has not been an official union since decertifying in November 1989 after the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided the league's system of free agent compensation was beyond challenge.

"There's no question in my mind there will be free agency" in the NFL, Woolf said, predicting, "a union will be re-formed and there will be a bargaining agreement with some form of free agency."

Around the league

New York Giants coach Bill Parcells is expected to return to work today after a painful kidney stone was pulverized. Parcells was treated Tuesday as an outpatient at the New Jersey Kidney Stone Treatment Center with lithotripsy, a procedure that uses ultrasound waves to break the stone into small pieces. . . .Nose tackle Joe Phillips, who hasn't played since he was injured in a Sept. 26 assault, is reportedly so frustrated by the Chargers' unwillingness to pay his full salary that he has asked to be released. Phillips, who is recovering from severe head injuries he suffered in the beating, asked the club for his full salary this year, but the team countered with an offer to pay him for half the season, General Manager Bobby Beathard said.

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