After lolly-gagging and not showing much interest in dealing with an expiring collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Players Association and the team owners have been scrambling for the past week to try and reach a settlement before tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) midnight deadline.

The negotiators on both sides of the issue have abided by the request of federal mediator George Cohen to refrain from discussing the issues that have taken place as the deadline nears. The two sides spent seven straight days trying to work out a deal before Friday and planned on resuming talks on Tuesday.

The bone of contention is that the NFL owners want a greater percentage of the estimated $9 billion in annual revenue they share with the players. Other significant items include a rookie wage scale which will be much lower than what most first-year players are knocking down today.

The current pact dictates that players earn 59.5 per cent of the revenue, after the first $1 billion is applied to costs associated with growing the game. The union claims the owners want the players to give back 18 per cent of their revenue, or more than $1 billion.

The NFL generated $9.3 billion in 2010. The Players Association maintains that when cost credits are applied, the revenue split is roughly 50-50.

Owners are seeking another $1 billion in cost credits, which the union contends is an 18 % rollback that is unjustifiable—particularly with no NFL franchises losing money and without a single team besides the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers fully disclosing its books.

As this occurs, the NFL rides a wave of popularity and revenue, according to this week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly. “A total of 111 million U.S. viewers watched Super Bowl XLV last month—the largest audience for a single program in U.S. television history,” the article points out.

Furthermore, Forbes concludes that NFL revenue grew 43% between 2005 and 2009, while total player compensation doubled since the collective bargaining agreement was extended in 2006. The NFL average franchise, according to Forbes, is worth $1.02 billion.

The owners also have been pushing to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 and reducing the preseason games by two games and to work out fair benefits for retired NFL players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and many owners want an 18-game schedule. Union leaders have gone back and forth on the 18-game schedule.

“We’re still staying within the 20-game format,” Goodell pointed out, “and we’re proposing and working with the union and figuring out the best way to do that. And if we can’t do it right, we won’t do it.”

Goodell has been praised for emphasizing player safety, but criticized for wanting to add to regular-season games, which would increase the players’ chances of suffering injuries. The players want to play and the owners want them to play more games for less pay.

If no agreement is reached in the next two days, the owners have the option to lock out the players or declare an impasse Thursday, meaning they would implement their last offer. The players would accept it or go on strike and virtually shut down pro football as we know it until an agreement has been reached. A more suitable option would be to extend the deadline to a later date.

For the past two weeks Goodell has been urging the two sides to reach a deal before the deadline, but his pleas have virtually fallen on deaf ears.

“Both sides are going to be prepared for every outcome,” Goodell told The Houston Chronicle recently. “The commitment on behalf of the ownership is to get an agreement. That is only going to happen when there are some intensive negotiations between the union and the owners.

“If we’re not successful by Thursday, a number of things will happen,” Goodell warned. “One of them would be that there wouldn’t be free agency. There are close to 500 players that would qualify for free agency who won’t be free agents.”

Two of the most successful owners, the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the Houston Texans Bob McNair, definitely don’t want to lock out the players. Kraft said it would be “criminal” if the two sides don’t come up with an agreement before Thursday.

If there is a work stoppage, there will be no player movement and no roster bonuses paid in March, but there will be a draft in April because players aren’t members of the union until they sign their contracts. But the mini-camps during the off-season likely will be affected.

The next two days will be very critical to this situation. Most of the owners and union officials have never been involved in an NFL work stoppage because the last one occurred back in 1987.

This Korner hopes this situation won’t get to a work stoppage. We look for the worst-case scenario to be an extension of Thursday’s deadline. Otherwise, there are going to be players, fans and even stadium employees who are going to be left out in the cold with animosity against both the owners and the players’ union.

KWICKIES…The Lamar Cardinal baseball team is currently in the midst of a 15-game home stand, mostly against teams from the parts of the country that are still fighting winter weather. The Redbirds last weekend swept a four-game series from North Dakota State (0-7) to improve their early-season record to 6-3. However, the Cards did beat a good Rice Owls team last week, so let’s give them some credit. The games in the current home stand are helping the visitors probably more than it is the Cards. But winning these early-season games can be very beneficial when it comes to looking at Lamar’s won-loss record at NCAA tournament time in late May and early June.

The Houston Astros began the exhibition season Monday by playing the first of 34 Grapefruit League games. The front office will have the tedious task of reducing the current 63-man roster to 25 players before breaking camp at the end of the month.

College recruiters are hot on the trail of West Orange-Stark junior cornerback Justin Thomas, who seems to be one of the hottest prospects in Southeast Texas. Rumors are that he has already received offers from Texas Tech and the University of Houston.

A couple of alterations around the baseball diamonds are producing opposite results. The change from the lively aluminum bats to the new “bbcor” graphite bats is producing several low-scoring baseball games on the college scene while moving the pitcher’s mound 3 feet back in high school softball is resulting in some higher scoring games, helping the batters see the ball a bit longer.

A couple of area pro golfers had nice paydays last weekend as former Port Neches-Groves and Lamar University golfer Chris Stroud finished fourth in the PGA Tour Mayakoba Golf Classic at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and earned $177,600. Former Little Cypress-Mauriceville and LSU standout Scott Sterling tied for sixth place in the Nationwide Tour Panama Claro Championship at Panama City, Panama and collected a check for $17,806.

The University of Houston Lady Cougars women’s basketball team tries to finish the Conference USA schedule with a perfect 16-0 record Saturday when they host Tulane at 2 p.m. in Hofheinz Pavilion. The Lady Coogs had a scare Sunday when they trailed Rice for 37 minutes. But Houston kept chipping away at the lead behind guards Porsche Landry and Orange’s Brittney Scott and beat their cross-town rival 74-70. Forward Courtney Taylor led the Lady Cougars with 24 points while Scott added 13.

Former Houston Astros star first baseman Lance Berkman, who was traded to the New York Yankees and then let go at the end of the season, signed for $8 million with the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in need of a right fielder. Berkman played in the Astros’ outfield when Jeff Bagwell was in the twilight of his career at first base, so the position isn’t entirely new to him. However, in an effort to strengthen his arm during the off-season, Berkman came up with a sore left arm. He has avoided throwing since arriving at the Cardinals’ spring training site and will play with a protective sleeve over his left elbow. Lance has had his woes ever since the Astros dumped him at mid-season last year.

JUST BETWEEN US…For the second year in a row I brought the Barbers Hill grand daughters—Jennifer and Shannon Whitehead—to the Mardi Gras Parade Saturday and as usual they had a great time catching strings of beads and watching the floats and listening to the bands. However, there’s always one bozo who has a warped sense of humor on the scene. This time a yo-yo on a float got his yuks by drenching strings of beads with beer and then throwing them to the excited little kids watching the parade. He’s lucky someone not as nice as me saw him because they probably would have yanked him off the float and made him do a little penance for his dastardly deed.