NFL and Regular Refs Reach New Labor Deal to End Lockout
New York, NY
The NFL and the league's regular referees have reached a new eight-year labor agreement , ending a three-month lockout and the three-week, controversy-filled stint of replacement officials.
The new labor deal between the NFL and referees is the longest in league history.
The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens will first benefit from the service of regular officials when they face off Thursday.
"We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players, where it belongs."
The new agreement came after Goodell was bombarded with criticisms for not quickly resolving the lockout that led to the hiring of inefficient replacement officials, whose calls angered coaches, players and fans alike.
The boiling point came during Seattle's victory over Green Bay where replacement officials called the last throw as touchdown instead of an obvious interception.
"All of us are very, very happy that this got resolved," referee Ed Hochuli told USA Today. "We're all excited to be back. And we're ready. I feel very good about the preparation of our leadership."
Hochuli had been working with officials to keep them mentally sharp during the lockout through tests and weekly conference calls.
"Everybody is glad that can move on and get back to officiating because one of the reasons we do it is we enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the challenge. There are a lot of e-mails flying. We're like a bunch of old women," Hochuli added.
Officials of the NFL Referees Association will travel to Dallas Friday to vote and ratify the agreement.
Under the new deal, salaries of referees will increase from of $149,000 last year to $173,000 in 2013 and up to $205,000 by the end of the agreement.
The agreement will keep defined pension plan in place through the 2016 season or until the official reaches 20 years or service. After that, the 401(k) kicks in for all officials, with an average league contribution of $18,000 increased to an average of $23,000 by 2019.
The union also agreed to allow the league to hire five officials "for training and development" purposes.
"It gives you an opportunity to let five guys learn. Then they can identify who they ultimately want to bring along. It's a very positive development,'' NFLRA executive committee member Jeff Triplette told USA Today.
Triplette expects that the referees association will ratify the agreement.
New York Times sports columnist Lynn Zinser and "NFL Today" host James Brown discuss the agreement between the NFL and the regular referees and the end to the lockout.
NFL lockout comes to an end
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