Wake me when it's over, we all said.
And whaddya know? Just when the circled date on the NFL calendar approached, just when the opening of training camps and those cherished preseason games were about to be placed in jeopardy, just when we were poised to actually start missing pro football...
The alarm clock seems about to ring.
Our long national nightmare -- no OTAs or fantasy football drafts -- is over. It's about to be football season again.
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Now, where were we?
I remember. There were icicles the size of whale harpoons cascading down the roof of Cowboys Stadium. There were $800 Super Bowl seats that hadn't passed inspection by the fire marshal.
Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were nowhere near Super Bowl XLV, but hold that thought.
The impending end of the lockout doesn't absolve the Cowboys of their myriad of lingering issues. Like, who's the clown who posted online the Tony Romo wedding video? And did the recent headline, Roy Williams Gets Ring, make you do a double take, too? Little did we realize it was his own ring.
If all goes according to reports, the league's new collective bargaining agreement could be approved as soon as Thursday. A brief period of furious activity will ensue -- re-signing players, shopping for free agents, signing rookies, trawling for wacky player tweets.
The problem is, the new CBA is not expected to contain any magic elixirs for returning 6-10 teams.
Quarterback Romo did miss 10 games last season. The head coach was fired with gusto after a 1-7 start. Williams and Marion Barber failed to enthrall the vast Cowboy fandom.
And, oh, right -- Forbes magazine announced that owner Jerry Jones' Cowboys are worth $1.81 billion, making them the second-richest sports franchise between here and Mars. Just think if they had gone 8-8.
Nothing turns off a newspaper reader, we have learned, like a story about a labor dispute -- unless, maybe, it's a story about steroids or Romo's golf handicap.
A few months without Organized Team Activities, however, Cowboys assistant coaches who aren't allowed to be interviewed, and free agents that the Cowboys can't afford made for a surprisingly pleasant off-season. And maybe even a Cowboys training camp that doesn't resemble a traveling Cirque du Soleil troupe.
The Cowboys are a tempest of distractions in even the quietest of times. With a condensed preseason calendar, who knows? No HBO cameras. No cameos in Canton. They may even start the regular season, for once, like a normal team.
Where were we?
Oh, right. Romo was mending from a broken clavicle. Jason Garrett was laying down his head coaching roots.
And Owner Jones was still the general manager -- oops.
When play resumes, there is a salty new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, to introduce to the practice fields. Somebody with a tool box also needs to get with young Dez Bryant and make sure his head is screwed on straight.
Roy Williams? His disappointing contributions have likely made most Cowboys fans indifferent about the prospect of simply cutting him. But it would mean a $10 million hit to the team's salary cap.
The decision should be much easier on Barber, who is the poster child for Guys That Jerry Paid Too Much Too Soon.
The team's first post-lockout priority remains the same: re-signing offensive tackle Doug Free. And it still needs a couple of defensive ends, so pick two: Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher or Stephen Bowen.
Nobody seems to know yet how the new CBA will handle prorated signing bonuses, and that could also hamper the Cowboys' ability to sign free agents. The expected salary cap, as some have reported, will be in the $120 million range. The Cowboys' uncapped payroll last season is said to have been close to $150 million.
The good news is that the contract and free-agent drama won't stretch through the off-season like a daytime soap opera. And there were no OTAs to over-report and over-analyze -- unless you want to count Romo's wedding.
The long NFL-less off-season, reportedly, will soon be over. The judges are said to be finished judging, the negotiators are finished negotiating, and the $9.3 billion pie has been bisected like Solomon's baby.
Time to wake up. There's a 6-10 team in town with a lot of work still to do.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697