As we get closer and closer to the start of the regular season, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association could be getting closer to closing a fairly close gap.
A league source tells PFT that there’s talk of a high-level negotiating session occurring Friday between the league and the locked-out officials. We don’t have names (yet) of the folks participating on behalf of the NFL.
We also don’t have confirmation that a session is occurring.
If the rumor is true, the move is encouraging, and it’s not really a surprise given the comments made Thursday by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Per Albert Breer of NFL Network, Goodell twice refused to rule out a return by the regular officials for Week One — even though the league already had said the replacements will be used for the first slate of games that count. NFLRA negotiator Mike Arnold suggested a deal could be done quickly, given that the gap between the two sides isn’t huge, about $6,000 per team per game.
The NFL’s willingness to talk (and perhaps to move off its position) means the league realizes that a shebacle is looming. The officials’ willingness to talk (and perhaps to move off their position) means that the men in stripes realize that they have one heck of a hobby, and that they don’t want to see anyone else doing that which they love to do. Especially when the replacements leave much to be desired.
So let’s hope they get it done, if for no reason other the good of the game.
UPDATE 11:37 a.m. ET: NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has declined to comment on the topic. And all that that implies.