Team owners, spurred by Monday night’s game-deciding controversial touchdown call by replacement officials, are having a major impact on progress toward settlement between the NFL and the locked out NFL Referee’s Association.
How much progress remained unclear Wednesday night.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Wednesday that an agreement in principal is at hand and other reports said officials could be back on the job by Sunday.
But, according to Pro Football Talk, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to such optimism by citing a well-known admonition by late New York Giants general manager George Young, regarding negotiations: “There is no such thing as close.”
As a result of intense negotiations that lasted until 2 a.m. Wednesday, there was apparently agreement on a developmental program for backup officials and that is considered a significant step. However, major hurdles still exist, including a benefits package.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported that a member official received an email from NFLRA negotiator Scott Green that read, “he said we’re making progress, but not close to a deal right now.”
The actions and words of owners are being credited with finally moving the negotiations in a positive direction.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay reflected the new, aggressive attitude of the owners in a Wednesday tweet aimed at a crescendo of complaints that followed the controversial call Monday night that gave the Seattle Seahawks a game-ending touchdown and a 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
“Your loud voices r heard about getting Refs back,” Irsay tweeted. “We’re desperately trying 2 get it done! We want a deal that improves officiating overall.”
“It’s just become too embarrassing, especially when these calls are deciding games, so some owners stepped up and it made a difference,” a team executive told The Sports Xchange.
Bouyed by some positive news, several sources indicate officials can be back on the job this week.
If the a settlement is reached by this evening, King reports that a source with knowledge of an NFLRA plan says the officials are ready to ratify the agreement and everything is in place to have them back on the field by Sunday.