THE NFL REACHES A DEAL WITH REFEREES!

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LA Times: The deal is done: The regular NFL officials are coming back, according to ProFootballTalk.com.

The NBC-owned webiste cites Jim Daopoulos, a longtime NFL official and supervisor of officials who joined NBC as an analyst this season, as saying the league and the NFL Referees’ Assn. have signed a new deal.

The report says a crew is being assembled to work Thursday night’s game between the Cleveland Brownsand Baltimore Ravens and on Friday the regular officials will travel to Dallas to retrieve their equipment and receive their game assignments for Sunday and Monday.

The same crews as last season will be working together this season.According to a report, the pension issue was resolved with the existing defined-benefit plan remaining in place for five years until the officials are rolled over into a 401(k) plan.Ending a lockout that lasted nearly four months — and three weeks of pins-and-needles tension with replacements — the NFL on Wednesday night reached a labor agreement with its officials, presumably in time for the regular crews to work this weekend’s games.

The crisis reached a flashpoint Monday night, when the Green Bay Packers were denied a victory against the Seahawks in Seattle on the basis of a wrong call on a Hail Mary pass.

That turned up the heat on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners to find a solution that largely concerned whether the officials could maintain their defined-benefit pension plans.

During the first three weeks of the regular season, the league came under heavy criticism from fans, players, and even normally friendly broadcast partners.

“I hope it happens soon,” St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said Wednesday. “I just don’t think it’s fair to the fans, I don’t think it’s fair to us as players to go out there and have to deal with that week in and week out.”

The replacement officials were mostly culled from the small college, junior college and high school ranks.

Unlike when replacements were used for Week 1 of the regular season in 2001, major college officials watched this labor fight from the sidelines, in support of their NFL officiating brethren.