NFL, Locked Out Refs Reach Agreement In Principle; Refs Could Work This Weekend's Games [UPDATE]
By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 26, 2012 5:20PM
ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported this morning the National Football League has reached an agreement in principle with the NFL Referees Association to end the lockout and have referees officiating league games as soon as this weekend.
Although league sources said it would take a week to get the locked-out officials on the field, the NFLRA says its 121 referees have been trained on the new rules implemented last season, have already passed physicals or are prepared to pass physicals immediately. New official game uniforms designed by Nike are "hardly an obstacle," according to a source.
The calls for an end to the lockout have grown louder after Monday night’s Green Bay-Seattle game, with politicians like President Barack Obama, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan calling for the locked out refs to return to the field. The two sides have been at odds over pensions, salaries, adding new officiating crews and the league’s mandate that referees undergo concussion-awareness training.
According to a press release from NFL.com, the two sides agreed to “create a developmental program as a compromise to the NFL's demand for the addition of 21 officials to the current contingent of 121 NFLRA members.” These developmental referees will be trained alongside current NFLRA members during the week and, while they won’t be union members themselves, will be considered for union membership if they show progress and a readiness to officiate NFL games.
Mortenson writes referees are ready to accept a “ratification bonus” which would compensate them for concessions made in negotiations. Referees’ retirement pensions remain the main obstacle. The NFLRA wants their current pension plan to stay the same, while the league wants to shift their pension plans to a 401(k).
Update 2:20 p.m. CST: Sports Illustrated's Peter King has laid out the other obstacles between a deal and referees taking the field this weekend. In short, if the NFLRA meets in Dallas Friday, it will be to ratify the deal.
NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, whose union had its own lockout troubles with the league last year, had this to say about a prospective deal.
Having done this before, everyone needs to wait until the ink is dry.— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) September 26, 2012