NFL Lockout Resolved: Referees To Return For Cleveland Browns Vs. Baltimore Ravens
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association finally reached a new labor deal after three months of negotiations, ending a lockout that had both fans and teams like the Green Bay Packers, who suffered a loss on Monday night following weeks of what many saw as irresponsible and ill-informed calls on the part of replacement officials, up in arms.
The new contract, which will run through the 2019 season to make it the longest agreement between the NFL and referees in history, will bump up salaries for the refs and gradually increase pensions beginning in 2017. The union conceded that the league would be able to bring in five officials "for training and development" — the least divisive of the issues.
"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," Jeff Triplette, the executive committee member of the NFL Referees Association, told USA Today.
Both sides of the dispute were reportedly pleased with the results. "All of us are very, very happy that this got resolved," said ref Ed Hochuli (pictured). "We're all excited to be back. And we're ready. I feel very good about the preparation of our leadership."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell agreed. "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," he said in a statement. "Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players, where it belongs."
And the focus is shifting not a moment too soon, after the replacement officials let the Seattle Seahawks triumph over the Green Bay Packers in a controversial, game-deciding call that most agreed should have been a touchdown for the Packers, but ended up as an interception for the Seahawks.
The new NFL / NFLRA agreement is set to be ratified in Dallas on Saturday, so the regular referees can start back at work for Thursday's game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
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