NFL confirms new deal between league, officials is done
By Doug Farrar | Shutdown Corner
It appears that Ed Hochuli and his friends will be back very soon. (Getty Images)
As it turned out, the NFL's nightmare scenario -- a team losing a game it should have won -- was all it took for the league and the NFL Referees' Association to get back to the bargaining table and wrap up a new deal. Negotiations picked up momentum after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers, 14-12, on Monday Night Football on a touchdown catch by Seattle receiver Golden Tate that was highly questionable.
According to several reports from many sources, the two sides are ready to sign off on the details of a multi-year collective bargaining agreement that will bring the real officials back from their lockout and on the field for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The agreement is completed in principle, and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed on Wednesday night that the stalemate is indeed over.
From the joint statement released by the NFL and NFL Referees' Association:
The NFL and NFLRA are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement tonight on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, subject to ratification by the NFLRA.
"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."
"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."
The NFLRA will vote to ratify the new CBA on Saturday.
The pension plan that the officials wanted to hold on to will reportedly be extended for another five years, with the retirement plans switching to 401k accounts after. The NFL wanted a new pool of 21 officials added to the NFLRA's current staff of 121 members, but the compromise will create a new developmental program.
The developmental officials will work with the existing crews and rise through the ranks as they are graded appropriately. Until they are deemed ready, the developmental refs will not be NFLRA members and cannot work games. It was the NFL's wish that a larger pool of officials be ready to sub in for refs that are either sick or injured, and that there be a program by which officials whose performance is considered sub-par would be "benched."
Tara Sullivan of the Bergen Record reports that the new collective bargaining agreement between the two sides will be eight years in length, and the question now is whether the league can get a crew to Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium in time for the Thursday night game. The Ravens-Browns contest is scheduled to begin at 8:20 PM ET, and the officials need to ratify the new deal in person before they can hit the field. Sullivan also reports that a crew has not been assigned, but that this is obviously a major priority.
Both sides are concerned that the Thursday night teams are not subject to the competitive imbalance that would result from some teams playing games under the jurisdiction of the replacement officials. And the impetus was clear after the Monday night game -- the NFL and NFL Referees' Association met for at least 25 of the subsequent 36 hours.
Jim Daopoulos, a former NFL official who now works for Pro Football Talk and NBC Sports, told PFT on Wednesday that there will be a Thursday crew, and all the refs scheduled to work Sunday will head to Dallas to get their equipment and possibly take a quick refresher seminar.
Peter King of SI.com reported earlier Wednesday that Ed Hochuli, the Arizona attorney considered the dean of NFL officials by most fans and media people, has been engaging the locked-out officials in weekly rules-related conference calls. All officials get a Hochulli-implemented test once a week, and Big Ed the Muscular then goes over the results with his comrades.
"That's one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go,'' a 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.''
Stay tuned for more details as they are made available.