|The referee lockout is over. (Getty Images)|
Ever since Monday night's disaster of an ending in the Seahawks-Packers game, there has been a push by both the NFL and the locked-out officials to resolve their labor dispute. That push, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports, resulted in a deal getting done between the league and refs that will end the lockout.
Additionally, La Canfora reports there is language in the deal that would allow the currently locked-out officials to begin working on Thursday night, when the Ravens and Browns kick off Week 4.
|More on lockout|
The agreement between the NFL and the officials will be an eight-year deal. Average referee salaries will go from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. The referee pension plan will remain in place through 2016 and then will be frozen. It will be replaced by a defined contribution agreement starting in 2017 that will feature contributions from the NFL of $18,000 per official (eventually increased to $23,000 per) along with a partial match of a 401(k).
The NFL will have the right to hire full-time officials beginning in 2013. And the NFL will also be given the right to retain additional officials for training and developmental purposes.
"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night," Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the NFL. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Browns and Ravens still hadn't been notified of changes to the officiating crew for the Thursday night game. And there appeared to be a reasonable enough financial bridge to gap that would prevent the refs from taking the field in Baltimore.
But the two sides made enough progress in negotiations that it appears the refs will get a full week's worth of work in. That's critical, since having the regular refs work all but one game in Week 4 could make for an awkward situation and leave Baltimore and Cleveland at a competitive disadvantage.
“Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote,” said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. “We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games.”
Of course, if the refs struggle out of the gates, that won't make things any easier. Which is why it's good news to hear that Ed Hochuli has been grilling them every week on the rules and situations that the NFL faces in 2012.
The best news, though, is that coaches, players, media and, most importantly, fans will be able to move past the sordid affair of the replacement refs soon enough.
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