A deal is apparently not imminent between the NFL and the locked-our referees. One locked-out official who got an email from NFL Referees Association negotiator Scott Green had this to say on the negotiations:
He said we’re making progress but not close to a deal right now.
When the two sides do strike a deal, the NFL will have Ed Houchuli to thank for keeping the locked-out officials prepared to make an immediate return to action, as reported by Peter King:
The NFL will have Hochuli to thank for the training sessions the NFL has not been able to run because he has run some of his own. Every Tuesday night, the veteran official with the Popeye arms has been holding rules-related conference calls with all officials. Average attendance on the calls, I’m told, is between 90 and 110 per week. Hochuli, the officiating sources says, gives all officials a test each week, similar to one they might get from the NFL during a regular week of preparations, and then goes over the results on the phone with the officials.
After Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks debacle, the NFL and its locked out officials amped up the negotiating sessions, and it was reported earlier this morning that the two sides had overcome a major hurdle in agreeing to a deal on the the issue of backup crews. The deal included an agreement that the NFL refs would now have a developmental program. The major hurdle to now overcome was the pension plan, as it remained a serious issue.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is now reporting that “an agreement in principle is at hand,” with the possibility of regular officials being on the field this weekend:
Although league sources said it would take a week to get the locked-out officials on the field, the NFLRA says its 121 referees have been trained on the new rules implemented last season, have already passed physicals or are prepared to pass physicals immediately. New official game uniforms designed by Nike are “hardly an obstacle,” according to a source.
Both sides have made concessions on previous sticking points such as a taxi squad of 21 new officials and pension plans that sources say the final meaningful hurdle is, as one source said, “about a little more money.”
While league sources say owners who participated in a conference call with commissioner Roger Goodell during Tuesday’s talks had instructed the negotiating team to set a firm barrier for the financial settlement, the NFLRA is prepared to accept a new agreement primarily in the form of a “ratification bonus,” which would compensate its 121-member union for concessions it is willing to make.
And then there’s this:
By rule, NFLRA members must ratify a new contract in person. In 2001, group convened in Dallas to approve a new deal.
— Nancy Gay (@nancygay) September 26, 2012
I’ll pay $1,000,000,000.00 n Player costs in 7 years…it’s not about greed or power mongering..new initiatives 2 improve officiating is key
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) September 26, 2012
There is every hope deal done in time for sundays game, and even if not done just yet, the days of the replacements refs are numbered
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 26, 2012