Sep 26, 2012
The NFL came to an agreement with its referees association Wednesday night, ending a two-month lockout and an embarrassing run for the replacement referees.
According to CBSSports.com, the sides completed the agreement late Wednesday and the regular referees would return in time for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
“We're back. I'm working on Sunday,” a game official told CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman on Wednesday night.
NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos told ProFootballTalk.com that a crew was being assembled to work Thursday night's game in Baltimore between the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
Length of the deal had yet to be announced. As a result of intense negotiations that lasted until 2 a.m. Wednesday, there was apparently agreement on a developmental program for backup officials and that is considered a significant step. The sides completed talks Wednesday night, and worked through a main roadblock when Daopoulos said they agreed to a pension setup in which the current defined-benefit plan will remain in place for five years before switching over to a 401(k) plan.
The new deal must be ratified by 121 officials and accepted by the NFLRA's board of directors, which includes referees Green and Jeff Triplette.
The agreement also ended an experiment that ended with a national frustration with the replacement referees. The tolerance with the replacement refs came to a head in the controversial Monday Night game.
Replays indicated that Packers cornerback M.D. Jennings had possession of a game-ending pass in the end zone, but referees awarded the catch to Seattle's Golden Tate after the two wrestled for the ball on the turf. One official signaled touchdown, and the other signaled timeout, indicating the play had ended.
Ed Hochuli, the NFL's officials best known for his big biceps, has made sure the officials are mentally ready, according to an official source cited by King. Hochuli has conducted tests with the officials each week similar to those they go through when working. This has kept them abreast of rules changes and interpretations.
“That's one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go,” the officiating source told King. “Ed grabbed the bull by the horns and made sure that whenever this thing ended, the regular officials would be ready to go back to work immediately.”
The reported agreement on backup officials involves a developmental program to be created as a compromise to the NFL's insistence that 21 officials be added to the current pool of 121 NFLRA members, an NFLRA source told NFL.com, though the money for the existing officials won't increase.
The 21 backup officials won't become members of the NFLRA, but will join a developmental program and be trained to work NFL games. They will be mentored, by NFL crews during the week, but won't work games and won't be eligible to be subbed out.
As the referees improve, they'll be considered for NFLRA membership, with the financial allotment being adjusted to reflect any new members.
The sides agreed that it was crucial to have more qualified refs available when circumstances arise outside of football, such as personal reasons. Also, referee retirement plans remains an issue, but an NFLRA source told NFL.com that the officials moved a bit off their position Tuesday.