The national football nightmare is over. The real referees are back.
The National Football League and the union representing on-field officials agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement late Wednesday night that will end the lockout imposed by the league in time for the full slate of Week 4 games, according to two league sources involved in the talks.
League spokesman Greg Aiello later confirmed the agreement on Twitter and a release from both sides said the deal was for eight years.
The two sides were putting the agreement on paper in order for the NFL Referees Association to ratify the document. That’s considered a formality, and a crew of officials was being put in place to work the Thursday night game between the Ravens and Browns in Baltimore.
The timing is important because a new deal means every team would have three games worked by replacement officials. Competitive balance would have been shifted this week since two teams, the Steelers and Colts, have bye weeks.
Three days after chaos reigned during and immediately following the Patriots’ 31-30 last-second loss Sunday night to the Ravens, in which New England coach Bill Belichick grabbed an official looking for a rule clarification that resulted in a $50,000 fine, the three-month lockout has come to an end.
‘‘I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident,’’ Belichick said in a statement.
Washington assistant Kyle Shanahan was fined $25,000 for what the league called ‘‘abuse of officials’’ in the Redskins’ loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Denver coach John Fox and assistant Jack Del Rio were hit in the wallet Monday for incidents involving the replacements.
The tipping point was likely the nationally televised Monday night game when the Packers were robbed of a victory when replacement officials failed to call offensive pass interference, and then incorrectly ruled that the Seahawks had scored a touchdown on the final play.
Here are the details of the agreement, released by the league:
- Eight-year term covering the 2012-2019 seasons.
- The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
- Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
- Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
- Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
- The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.