Earlier today, ESPN reported that a deal between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association is “at hand,” and that the real officials could be back to work this week.
Asked about the situation, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello quoted George Young, the late Giants G.M., with this admonition regarding negotiations: “There is no such thing as close.”
So there’s no deal until there’s a deal. And, as of right now, there’s no deal.
Confirming that there’s no deal is NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos, who told PFT by phone this afternoon that NFLRA president Scott Green emailed the rank-and-file from the meeting room with the explanation that a deal has not been struck.
Even if/when a deal is reached among the negotiators, it will have to be approved by at least half of the 121 officials. As Daopoulos explained, the officials badly want to return to work, which could make them likely to accept whatever deal the NFLRA presents to them for a vote.
Still, questions remain. Dapoulos explained that, as to the reportedly tentative agreement to maintain a 21-official developmental squad that won’t be used during a given season to “bench” the regular officials, the officials want to know how the group will be assembled, what they will be doing during the season, and (perhaps most importantly) how they’ll be paid.
And while roughly 85 to 100 of the officials engage in a weekly conference call arranged by Ed Hochuli to discuss rule changes and other officiating issues in order to remain ready to work, Daopoulos explained that, as to roughly 20 of the locked-out officials, there’s real concern regarding their ability to pass a physical.
Then there’s the question of using replacements for a Thursday night game and regular officials for the balance of the weekend. Daopoulos said that the league likely will prefer an all-or-none approach, for reasons of competitive balance. if, for example, the Ravens lose to the Browns on a bad call from the replacements, the Ravens would be able to legitimately complain that, if they’d been scheduled to play on Sunday, they would have had the benefit of the real officials.
Regardless, no one will have the regular officials until a deal is done. And a deal isn’t done — and won’t be done — until it’s done.
For now, I’m done.