The current lockout of National Football League players by the owners that has been in effect for more than 10 weeks is starting to take its toll. But it’s not the 1,600 veteran players that are hurting, but the 254 new rookies who have really been left out in the cold by this work stoppage.

The handful of No. 1 and No. 2 picks the first day of the draft were able to at least meet with those team executives and coaches involved in the selection process and even got a team playbook to look at briefly.

But those players taken in the last two days don’t know anything about what their new job is all about or when they will be able to begin learning and playing football with their new teams because of the re-lockout.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upheld an appeal by NFL owners and issued a temporary postponement of an April 25 order halting the then 6-week-old lockout by District Judge Susan Richard Nelson. As a result, the lockout was reinstated as the third round of the draft wound down.

Players chosen in the first round—before the appeals court issued its stay—were allowed to meet with their new coaches and receive playbooks. Most players selected after the appeals court ruling were prevented from discussing football with coaches or from getting playbooks.

This is the time of the year that NFL teams hold mini-camps and focus on position-by-position instructions that is especially beneficial to the rookies and non-starters on the teams. But with the lockout still in effect, that valuable instruction time is all going by the wayside.

The lockout is going to especially hurt the Houston Texans who made it a point to draft much-needed defensive players and have them learn new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ system of defense, which is entirely different than what Head Coach Gary Kubiak had been using for the past five years that produced only one winning record and no playoff appearances.

Phillips worked really hard with the team’s scouts, dictating exactly what he’s looking for in the draft. Kubiak said that other defensive coordinators he has worked with trimmed a list of 500 or so potential draft picks to a list of 50 or 60. Instead, Phillips got it down to 15 or 20 and the Texans chose five of them in the draft.

This normally is Kubiak’s favorite time of the year because it’s all about coaching, according to Sunday’s Houston Chronicle. But the lockout has curtailed the mini-camps and the individual attention players normally benefit from.

“I think we’ve got a damn good football team,” Kubiak said. “I think we lost our way on the defensive side of the ball last year, and I think we have the perfect guy to fix it. I think we can build a team that can win three ways, not one way.”

The NFL players argue that the lockout is causing them irreparable harm because they can’t work out or sign contracts with any of the 32 teams while the lockout persists.

Lawyers for the players’ association filed a brief last weekend declaring “there is no off-season in professional sports—only a portion of the work year during which no games are played.”

The union claims that part of the year brings opportunities such as the option to change cities, teams or the trajectory of one’s career.

But the owners counter by pointing out that lifting the lockout with no labor deal in place would cause chaos, with teams trying to make decisions on signing free agents and making trades under a set of rules that could change drastically under a new agreement.

A group of players, including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, are suing the NFL contending the lockout is inflicting irreparable harm on their brief playing careers by preventing them from working out at team headquarters, holding full practices with teammates and coaches and jeopardizing games.

And the rookies trying to earn a job with their respective team will be lost not knowing the basic offensive formations and defensive schemes the teams have been using for years.

If there even is a 2011 NFL season, the product on the field is going to be inferior to what the ticket-paying fans are accustomed to seeing due to lack of preparation time. And the television networks, who shell out billions of dollars annually in broadcasting rights, certainly are going to be short-changed because of the current lockout.

KWICKIES…All of the high school baseball and softball teams had their season’s ended last weekend EXCEPT the Bridge City Cardinals, who double-thumped Giddings and are moving to the Class 3A Region III semifinals. The Cards (22-10) will meet No. 6-ranked Waco Robinson in a best-of-three series beginning 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday with Game 3 to follow if necessary.

The Lamar Cardinals scored only three runs during the three-game season-ending series against Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches last weekend, but the 3-2 victory Saturday was good enough to get the Big Red into the Southland Conference baseball tournament as the No. 7 seed. Ironically, that was the same seed the Cardinals earned last year when they won the tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament. Lamar will meet the No. 2 seed which happens to be SFA. The two teams meet in the opening round of the double-elimination tourney today (Wed.) at noon hosted by Texas State in San Marcos. The loser of this game will meet the loser between UTSA and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Thursday at 9 a.m. with the winners of these two games playing at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Shreveport native David Toms held on to win the PGA Tour-Colonial Sunday at Fort Worth by one stroke over Charlie Wi. It was Toms’ first PGA Tour victory since January 2006. He lost to K.J. Choi in a playoff last week at The Players Championship. Toms earned a winner’s check for $1,116,000.

Congrats to the West Orange-Stark Mustangs 7-on-7 team for taking first place in the eight-team tournament at Anahuac and qualifying to the finals at Texas A&M in July.

And speaking of the Mustangs, they lost one of the best track coaches and offensive coordinators in the state when Toby Foreman decided to accept similar positions at Class 4A Texas High in Texarkana. He will join Head Coach Barry Norton, who used to be the offensive coordinator at West Orange-Stark. Foreman coached the Mustangs track team to their third straight Class 3A state championship recently in Austin where the team set Class 3A state records in the 400 and 800-meter relays.

The Houston Astros defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 Sunday to win only their third series of the season. Hunter Pence blasted a two-run home run to put the Astros ahead for good and made a winner out of Wandy Rodriguez (3-3). The Astros returned home and began a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday night at Minute Maid Park.

JUST BETWEEN US…Craig Couvillion and I were on the road to Lufkin Saturday at the crack of dawn to play in a golf tournament at the Lufkin Country Club sponsored by my grandson Logan Smith’s National Elite Series baseball team aptly named Linedrive. As soon as we traveled north of Highway 12 we saw signs of rain, that didn’t quite get to the Orange area. The closer to Lufkin we got, the more water we saw in the ditches along the side of the road. Just outside of Zavalla, it was pouring and it looked like that area got four or five inches of rain. There was a sign at the side of the road that read “Burn Ban in Effect”, but the word “effect” was under water. Luckily it stopped raining in Lufkin and our four-man scramble team of son-in-law Brian Smith, long-hitting Charlie Free, Craig and I shot 14-under par but didn’t win anything. The baseball team, for boys 14 years and under, has been earning money throughout the season to play in a national tournament either in Colorado or in Flower Mound, Texas in July.