Warrick - Deone Horinek

By GEOFF HOBSON

Warrick, Bengals draw near

Maybe Norm Nixon wasn't as tired as the day his Lakers landed in Boston at 4 a.m. to play the Celtics in a noon game at The Garden. But he was just as pumped up tonight at Spinney Field as he and partner Jim Gould closed in on a lightning-quick deal with the Bengals on first-round pick Peter Warrick.

The deal could be done as soon as Friday in a potential major coup for the Bengals, a team that has been criticized for holdouts but is now poised to avoid a major first-round holdout for the fifth time in the past seven training camps. At the very least, both sides agreed that it could be finished within the week. Nixon, who flew all night on a red eye from Los Angeles to make today's 1 p.m. meeting, said he thought he would go home with a deal.

"I plan on staying if that's what it takes," said Nixon, the former NBA guard doing his first big NFL deal. "I've always thought the best way to negotiate is face-to-face."

Nixon is staying at Gould's Indian Hill home and his host predicted, "Norm's at my house until it gets closed." Gould also said, "Assuming it keeps going like it is, we're in it. Norm's here. We'll meet (Friday) and if it goes beyond (Friday), we'll be here."

"Who takes the weekend off?" Nixon asked.

The negotiations were relaxed and informal. Gould and Nixon met with Bengals vice presidents Katie Blackburn and Paul H. Brown and chief financial officer Bill Scanlon over a lunch of sandwiches and chips. Bengals President Mike Brown joined for lunch, but left when the talks started.

When there was a break at about 4:20 p.m. for the club to run some numbers, Gould and Nixon bumped into Brown as he was headed out for his daily jog around the practice field. Brown, who is Gould's neighbor, delayed his jog to chat with the agents. Mainly about the NBA as Nixon enjoyed hearing about Brown's impression of another former Laker, Elgin Baylor, later Nixon's boss when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. Then Brown went for his run and the talks ran until about 6:30 p.m.

"We seem to be working off the same framework and I'm optimistic things can get done within a week," Blackburn said.

Neither side divulged specifics, but since Warrick is the fourth pick, the working numbers figure to be a $9 to 10 million signing bonus for a seven-year deal in the $40-45 million range. But the key points of contention most likely revolve around voidable years and what statistics will kick off the escasator clauses.

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BENGALS CLAIM PUNTER:

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The Bengals plucked punter Deone Horinek off the waiver wire today after he was released by the Packers. Horinek, a 6-2, 230-pounder, is a college free agent out of Colorado State scouted by Bengals personnel man Duke Tobin last season.

"He's a big kid who can kick it a long way, but he can also hang it up," Tobin said. "He's got a nice touch for a college kid, able to drop it inside the 20. He's a powerful guy who kind of reminds me of a poor man's (former Pro Bowler) Darren Bennett. He's not Bennett, but that type of guy with a lot of raw ability. His one negative is that he doesn't kick off."

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