NEW YORK (AP/WSYR-TV) - The NFL and the referees' union have reached a tentative contract agreement, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead.
With Commissioner Roger Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks at midnight Thursday with the announcement of a tentative deal, which must be ratified by the union's 121 members. Regular referees will be back on the field for Thursday night's game between Cleveland and Baltimore.
The deal will give increase the referees pay an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. It also keeps the pension plan in place until 2016, while creating a new NFL contribution arrangement starting in 2017. The tentative agreement will allow the NFL to hire full-time officials.
The highly scrutinized replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of frustration that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.