NFL officials Tom Stabile and Ed Hochuli arrive in Dallas to sign the new CBA. (AP)
It hasn't even been a week since the "Fail Mary" pass that gifted a win to the Seattle Seahawks happened, but the aftereffects of one of the most controversial calls in NFL history hit fast and with extreme effect. After the NFL and NFL Referees' Association worked through most of Tuesday and Wednesday following the Seattle-Green Bay Monday Night Football debacle, the two sides wrapped up a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement early Thursday morning.
On Saturday in Irving, Texas, the real referees approved the new CBA by a 112-5 vote, leaving no question that NFL games will be in reasonably capable hands through the end of the decade. The officials met on Friday night to review the details of the new CBA, and voted in a 30-minute meeting on Saturday morning.
The new deal will raise pay for officials from $149,000 a year in 2011, to $173,000 in 2013, and ending with $205,000 by 2019. There will be a new developmental pool of officials, the NFLRA got its current pension plan extended another five years, and some officials can be made full-time league employees starting in 2013. To date, all NFL officials have been seasonal employees, and most of them have other jobs.
Scott Green, President of the NFLRA, couldn't wait for the process to end. ''It was pretty much 'Come on it and vote,' Green said after the ratification. "We're going to talk football now. We're going to stop talking about CBAs and lockouts and now we're going to talk about rules and video and getting ourselves ready to work football games.''
Green is one of the officials who will fly out from Texas to this week's slate of NFL games. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had to lift the league-implemented lockout so that a crew of actualy officials, led by Gene Steratore, could work Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. Baltimore won, 23-16, but the big story was the hero's welcome received by Steratore and his crew from the crowd at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
The game that turned the tide, Seattle's 14-12 "win" over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, ended with what was called a touchdown catch by Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. However, Tate did not appear to have possession of the ball all the way to the ground, voiding the "simultaneous catch" rule, and the ball most likely should have gone to Packers safety M.D. Jennings, who intercepted the Russell Wilson airball in the end zone.
Even Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll agreed that it was time to get the real officials back in the fold. "I think it's exactly what should have happened a long time ago," Carroll said on Friday. "It's great to have them back; it's the way it should be. I think in the first game you can tell that all the problems haven't gone away, there are always issues and there are always going to be, but the game will be administered so much better and so much cleaner. It's great that it's done."
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