Well, the wait is finally over! According to a tweet from NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello, the NFL has agreed to terms with the NFLRA that will allow the regular league officials to return to work starting with tonight's game between the Ravens and Browns in Baltimore.
The NFL has released details on the agreement saying it is for 8 years (covering the 2012-2019 seasons) and will go into effect as soon as the union ratifies the agreement, which is expected to happen over the weekend. As a sign of good faith, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has temporarily lifted the lockout to allow officials to work the Thursday night game between the Ravens and Browns.
It is expected that the regular officials will all be back to work under the new agreement starting Sunday afternoon.
Goodell released the following statement after the agreement was reached:
The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating. This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.
We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.
Whether or not this is a direct reaction to the debacle that occurred in Seattle on Monday night which gave the Seahawks a 14-12 victory over the Packers is unclear, but it's frankly about time that both sides pulled their heads out of the sand and realized that they needed to work together and get a deal done to uphold the integrity of the game.
If it weren't for the fact that the NFL wanted to make a statement to the NFLRA that they weren't backing down and seemed willing to let the replacement officials ruin the good name of officiating as long as the NFLRA refused to give in to their demands, this situation could have been resolved before the season even started. It's never been about the money, because the NFL has plenty of it. It's always been about the NFL getting what they want, simple and plain.
At the end of the day, it's irrelevant which side finally gave in and decided to negotiate first (and at this time we don't even know that information, though I'm sure it will be revealed in the near future). The important thing is that now we can go back to our normal football fan lives and complain endlessly about the countless calls the regular officials miss every week. The only downside to this for us is when the Panthers lose, we can't blame it on the replacement refs anymore.