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A sitdown hardly clarifies standoff

The story, on the face of it, seemed simple. Channel 4's Steve Burton would go to Houston, sit down with Carl and Kevin Poston -- agents for Ty Law -- and get their perspective on the status of the disgruntled Patriots cornerback for a "Sports Final" segment.

Burton asked the Postons questions from the Boston viewpoint, suggesting that the agents' advice had turned the likable Law into a greedy guy, willing to leave if the price is right.

But the conversation hardly could be classified as direct answers to direct questions.

The Postons' position basically is that their client is the best cornerback in the National Football League and should be paid accordingly. "The Patriots have no intention of letting him go. They know he's worth a lot more," said Carl. "I've never heard a guy ask me what he has to do to buy his way out of his contract."

Their calls to Bill Belichick? "Returned by Scott Pioli," said Carl, who added, "I was in Boston during the draft week and tried to talk to Bill and tried to talk to Scott. They were too busy." Hard to believe that on draft week.

After the interview rolled, "Sports Final" host Bob Lobel had attorney Harry Manion in studio, originally to talk about tomorrow night's FRAXA (Fragile X Syndrome) Research fund-raiser at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. The talk turned to the Burton interview, and Manion's take was: "The Postons aren't playing the game very well. They're showing how tough they can be. It's the agent pandering to the client, and that's not the type of agent you want, someone who insults the people who are employing you. They're saying, `I'll show you how tough I can be.' That appeals to a certain type of player. But not to a Willie McGinest [a Manion client], a Lawyer Milloy, or a Drew Bledsoe. They want reality.

"In effect, they're trying to attract more clients. This was an advertisement. Ty needs to be more sophisticated than that."

Burton, who continued on the road on further assignments, wasn't in studio Sunday night, but offered his thoughts via phone from the West Coast yesterday.

"I went into the interview with the idea that they were the greedy ones," he said. "By the time I left, I didn't feel that way. They rarely go on camera, and my goal was to show the situation from their point of view. My conclusion is that they were two sharp guys who care about their clients and stick up for them. I also got the feeling they were hoping to work out an extension with the Patriots to keep Law in New England."

File under: No end in sight.

Sharpe tongue

Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe is retiring from football, giving up a $760,000 position for a three-year deal at $1 million-per on the set of "The NFL Today," the CBS pregame show. CBS will make an official announcement in a conference call today. Sharpe, who turns 36 next month, was wavering on playing a 15th NFL season. He'll work the studio show with Jim Nantz, Boomer Esiason, and Dan Marino (who left for a front office job with the Dolphins but returned before being replaced). Sharpe replaces Deion Sanders, who brought star quality and enough wackiness to give the show a successful edge, especially in exchanges with Esiason . . . Boston's Preakness rating was 9.9 for the race portion (5:45-6:45 p.m.), a 43 percent increase from last year. The 15-minute delay just as the horses were ready to head for the starting gate helped hold the audience for an extra quarter-hour, with the numbers peaking at 10.6 from 6:15-6:30 and at 10.2 from 6:30-6:45. Host market Baltimore topped the metered markets with a 21.1 rating, and Philadelphia (home of winner Smarty Jones) followed with a 16.9. A gold star for NBC handicapper Bob Neumeier for giving viewers a $24 payoff on an $8 exacta bet . . . Leigh Montville, author of "Ted Williams: Biography of an American Hero," will be an in-studio guest on NESN's "Extra Innings" following tonight's Sox-Devil Rays game . . . Tomorrow's "Sportsplus" (NESN, 11 p.m.) will originate from the FRAXA dinner, with Lobel and the Globe's Bob Ryan and Nick Cafardo. Guests include Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

Getting 'Real'

"Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" returns tonight on HBO (10 p.m.). The show won an Emmy last year for its report on Vanderbilt football recruit Marcus Dixon, who was sentenced to 10 years for statutory rape and child molestation following what he claimed -- and jurors believed -- was consensual sex with a 15-year-old white student. Dixon was released from prison May 4 after 15 months behind bars. Gumbel went back to Rome, Ga., to follow up the story and look ahead at the future for Dixon, who is black, and his adoptive white parents. Another segment of the show is Bernard Goldberg's visit to Athens, site of the Summer Olympics. The report shows that a huge amount of work remains to be done, with three months to go to the Opening Ceremonies . . . If the $49.95 pay-per-view tariff was too high for you Saturday night, you can catch the rebroadcast of Antonio Tarver's second-round KO of Roy Jones Jr. during the telecasts of this Saturday's Floyd Mayweather-DeMarcus Corley junior welterweight bout (HBO, 9:45 p.m.) . . . TNT had one of those good-news, bad-news Friday nights. It was airing the Nets' 127-120 triple-overtime win over the Pistons. But the long telecast kept the Timberwolves-Kings nightcap off the air until halftime, certainly doing no favors for fans in Minneapolis and Sacramento . . . On the CN8 "Sports Pulse" schedule: The 10-11 p.m. show will do a segment with the Boston Cannons Major League Lacrosse team tomorrow and talk with Bay State Games executive director Kevin Cummings Thursday . . . ESPN has NBA tonight (Indiana-Miami, Game 6) at 8, and ESPN2 has hockey (Flyers-Lightning, Game 6) at 7:30.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is 

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