Last week when this Korner interviewed Atlanta Falcons’ place-kicking star Matt Bryant in his hometown, the Bridge City native felt that the NFL lockout would end soon, like maybe last weekend or possibly this week.

He knew that many important issues were close to being solved, and those nearest to the situation but not involved in the negotiations confirm that they expect the league and the players to complete an agreement in principle early this week, according to Sunday’s article in the Washington Post.

“Representatives of the two sides left a negotiating meeting Friday with a tentative agreement virtually in place,” the article stated.

The league and players were scheduled to meet Monday in New York with their court-appointed mediator Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. The owners are to meet Thursday (tomorrow) in Atlanta and could vote then to ratify the deal to end the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the nine named plaintiffs in a federal antitrust suit against the league, and the NFL Players Association’s 32 team representatives.

Re-establishing the union and figuring out what it will take for nine NFL players—including star quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees—to settle that antitrust suit are among the key issues blocking a deal to end the lockout, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The article added that the players must take a separate approval vote and free agency could begin by next Monday. The league and players reached an agreement last week on rookie pay and salary cap systems. The salary cap is to be set at about $141 million per team for players’ salaries and benefits, with about $120 million devoted to salaries and another $20 million in benefits.

The two Lone Star State franchises are ready to swing into business-as-usual action the minute the lockout ends, with the Dallas Cowboys needing to reduce their roster to get under the salary cap while the Houston Texans are looking to build their training camp roster.

Both teams have a key player to re-sign once the NFL gets back to business with the Cowboys needing to come to terms with left offensive tackle Doug Free, while the Texans General Manager Rick Smith is chomping at the bit to get Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach back into the fold.

But the Cowboys have a reported $137.4 million devoted to the 2011 roster, according to the San Antonio Express News.

Owner Jerry Jones is already penciling in first-round draft pick Tyron Smith as the starter at right tackle, which means the Cowboys are expected to say goodbye to aging Marc Columbo. But with a base salary scheduled at $1.9 million, Columbo’s departure would save the club only $700,000, according to

Overpaid and under-producing wide receiver Roy Williams would be a likely candidate, but the Pokes would take a significant cap hit ($12.9 million) to let him go.

The cap space savings for each veteran would be between $1.5 million and $4.75 million according to Among the possible candidates are running back Marion Barber, cornerback Terence Newman, linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking and right guard Leonard Davis.

As far as signing free agents is concerned, both Dallas and the Houston Texans would leap at the chance to target Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. But on the first official day of business after the lockout ends, Smith and his Houston Texan colleagues will hit the phones, looking to make deals to round out the roster.

And according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, “there won’t be time for fancy recruiting trips, extensive workouts or lengthy negotiations.” The league will have designated windows allowing teams the opportunity to sign their rookies and undrafted free agents before getting a chance to re-sign their own free agents.

The Texans currently have 59 players under contract, plus the rights to their eight draft picks. In the past training camp rosters were limited to 80 players.

“The most important thing is to get our guys in here, whether it’s a week or three days before we go to training camp, so we can check them out and find out where our injured players are and what kind of shape everybody’s in,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.
The most difficult transition is going to be on defense, where the Texans have switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 under first-year coordinator Wade Phillips.

“The biggest difference for my team this year is working every day in practice against the 3-4,” Kubiak pointed out. “Every team in our (AFC South) division plays a 4-3. Because we’ll be practicing against Wade’s 3-4, we’ve got to change our whole mentality.”

Kubiak and his assistants have used the lockout to get ahead on some of their duties.
“Game plans for the preseason games are done. A lot of things we usually do during the late, late nights of training camp we’ve already done,” Kubiak added.

The coaches already have worked on their game plan for their second consecutive regular-season opener against Indianapolis at Reliant Stadium. But thanks to the lockout there’s much to do and not a lot of time in which to do it.

KWICKIES…The Houston Astros have found a lot of different ways to lose a baseball game but Sunday’s 7-5 loss in the 11th inning takes the cake. Pittsburgh scored two runs when the Astros decided to intentionally walk a .200 hitter to get to pitcher Kevin Correia, who lashed a double to drive in both runs. Houston tied the game 4-4 to send it into extra innings and then in the 11th inning the Pirates scored three runs on two hits, errors by two pitchers, a passed ball and another intentional walk. That makes the seventh consecutive series the Astros have lost, sinking their season record to 31-64 and their record at Minute Maid Park to a paltry 15-35 in games through Sunday. Washington came in Monday for a three-game series that concludes with an afternoon matinee Wednesday that begins at 1:05 p.m.

There is still time to take advantage of the free initiation fee being offered during the month-long membership drive at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange. Golfers can take advantage of a full membership while non-golfers can join as social members and utilize the refreshing swimming pool during the warm months, the spacious clubhouse with all its delicious food and drinks and the tennis courts. Since we’ve gotten some much-needed rain during the last week, the golf course has turned a lush green and is in excellent shape. For more information call the clubhouse at (409)883-9392.

The United States went much farther in the women’s World Cup than most soccer fans anticipated, losing in the Championship finals to Japan 3-1 on penalty kicks after the score was deadlocked at 2-2. The U.S. last won the World Cup, which is played every four years, in 1999 over China and in 1991 over Norway.

Phil Mickelson suffered one of his usual Sunday collapses last weekend in the final round of the British Open. After erasing a five-stroke deficit on the first seven holes and shooting a front-nine score of 30 Sunday, Mickelson staggered in at 38 on the back nine. He finished the day three-strokes behind winner Darren Clarke, tied with Dustin Johnson for second place.

JUST BETWEEN US…It’s a good bet that during his playing days when Roger Clemens was on the mound he won plenty of baseball games because of a physical or mental error of the opposing team. Well, chalk up another victory for The Rocket in the U.S. Government’s perjury case against his testimony when he declared under oath to Congress that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. The by-the-book judge declared a mistrial last week when the prosecution played a video for the jurors that included evidence the judge barred from the jury. The judge in the case was Reggie B. Walton, who will be weighing legal arguments in coming weeks to determine whether to grant prosecutors a retrial. In this Korner’s opinion, it seems Congress has more pressing issues to contend with than whether or not Roger Clemens lied to them in 2008!