NEW YORK (AFP) –
National Football League officials reached a deal with their referees’ union to end a lockout and regular officials will be back on the field starting with a game Thursday in Baltimore.
The settlement came about 48 hours after replacement officials botched a game-deciding call on the final play of a Monday night game to give Seattle a victory over Green Bay and pressure mounted upon the league to make a deal.
“Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to a statement on the league’s website.
“We appreciate the commitment of the NFL Referees Association in working through the issues to reach this important agreement.”
Union referees will work Thursday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens before the entire referee union membership votes upon the eight-year agreement on Saturday in Dallas.
“Our board of directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed collective bargaining agreement to the membership for a ratification vote,” said union president Scott Green.
“We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games.”
Final details of the deal were not immediately released.
Replacement referees worked pre-season games and the first three weeks of the NFL regular season, with a growing number of complaints from fans, players and coaches about the fill-ins’ performance.
Officials called in from the lower-level collegiate ranks were struggling to keep pace with the speed and physicality of the NFL game.
“Welcome back REFS glad y’all was able to get a deal done but thanks to replacements refs 4 trying their best given da circumstances,” said Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller in a Twitter posting.
Players’ safety and league credibility were compromised, critics argued, and the final play of replacement players summed up the mess on Monday when one official signaled a touchdown and another an interception on the last play.
The call was ruled a touchdown and a video review upheld the decision.
However, television reviews replayed for days showed Green Bay defender M.D. Jennings outleaping Seattle receiver Golden Tate for the pickoff even though Tate also managed to grab the ball with his arms around Jennings.
“It’s something that unfortunately went against us, but we’re actually moving on,” Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”