Reports: NFL referee lockout could end this week

Denver Broncos
NFL replacement referees struggle to whether or not to give Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate a touchdown on Sept. 24, 2012. Tate was awarded a touchdown despite the fact that it appeared M.D. Jennings had intercepted the pass. (CNN)

NFL replacement referees struggle to whether or not to give Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate a touchdown on Sept. 24, 2012. Tate was awarded a touchdown despite the fact that it appeared M.D. Jennings had intercepted the pass. (CNN)

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The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have come to an agreement regarding backup crews, according to a report. This would be a significant step toward bringing regular referees back on the field — maybe as early as this week.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting significant progress was made between the two sides during a late-night negotiation session Tuesday and another session early on Wednesday morning. Mortensen went on to report that an “agreement in principle” is in hand to end the referee lockout entirely.

Mortensen cited one source that said this could mean NFL referees return to officiate the upcoming week’s games. Another said it seems more likely that the referees will be back for the next week’s games.

As reports about this potential agreement have surfaced, several league owners have become more vocal.

“Your loud voices r heard about getting Refs back,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay Tweeted. “We’re desperately trying 2 get it done! We want a deal that improves officiating overall.”

That Tweet and the news on this potential agreement both came two days after a controversial touchdown call made by the NFL’s replacement officials. The call gave a win to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night despite a further review of the play, which appeared to show the pass had actually been intercepted by the Green Bay Packers.

That seemingly-correct call would have given the Packers the win.

The biggest compromise reportedly reached in the past two days’ negotiations between the NFL and its referees concerns backup officials.

According to a report on NFL.com, this potential agreement would mandate the creation of a developmental program — one that would add 21 backup officials to the current pool of 121 NFLRA members. The NFL was insistent that more qualified refs be available should circumstances arise outside of football that would make any number of the current 121 members unavailable.

The sides haven’t yet resolved the issue of referee retirement plans, but a source told NFL.com that the officials gave some ground Tuesday.

An early sticking point for referees during the negotiations had been retirement benefits. Considering referees are only part-time employees, the NFL has argued it was unreasonable for them to expect such perks. 

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