Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Have New Deal in Place

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Officials Have New Deal in Place

Article excerpt

EAST RUTHERFORD - The NFL's referee nightmare has come to an end.

In the wake of unceasing criticism, impatient anger and awfully bad publicity, the NFL and the union that represents game officials came to a new eight-year labor agreement late Wednesday night, a source confirmed to The Record.

The established refs are expected to be in Baltimore in time for tonight's Week 4 game between the Browns and Ravens, then cover the full slate of Sunday and Monday games.

The end of the owner-imposed lockout will close one of the most embarrassing chapters in NFL history, a chapter that turned into a national joke at the conclusion of Monday night's marquee game between the Packers and Seahawks. As loop after loop of the last- second blown call flashed across our television sets, the league had no choice but to get back to the bargaining table and cross the settlement finish line.

Wednesday turned out to be that day, though it was a rocky one. Glimmers of hope spiked and dipped throughout the day, but when early reports of imminent settlement were replaced by a seeming reality of continued stalemate, the conversation continued to flash back to Monday night, when replacement officials cost the Packers -- the Super Bowl champions just two seasons ago who now are 1-2 -- a game.

As this season rolled into its first-quarter finale, players were still talking about the debacle in Seattle, when replacement officials gave a winning Hail Mary touchdown to Seattle rather than an interception to Green Bay. Players were still talking about continuing to operate at the highest level of their profession while being judged by the lowest-level referees, a situation they all tried to ignore, but knew had to be resolved.

"Obviously," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said after practice, and before the deal was struck. "We know that we need those guys out there. Enough light has been shed on the [replacement] officials. We understand that they've been put in a tough position, so I don't want to hammer the point because those are grown men with jobs who are put in a position and doing the best that they can. Now the league is meeting with the representatives from NFL officials. …

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