One NFL owner said Wednesday that he hopes a deal to get veteran game officials in place for the weekend is possible, but stopped well short of calling it probable.
"I would call things 'positive-but-precarious,' " the owner told Yahoo! Sports. "There are still a lot of hard feelings on both sides, a lot of people still drawing lines in the sand, at least verbally. I could see something being done by [Thursday] or it could take another week."
According to reports from both NFL Network and ESPN, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association made considerable progress toward a new deal in Tuesday meetings that lasted until early Wednesday morning. While that came in the aftermath of the controversial ending to Monday night's Green Bay-Seattle game, the owner said that had little to do with it.
"I think it's just time," the owner said. "The officials know what they're losing and I think they understand our stance."
Reportedly, the biggest breakthrough so far is the addition of 21 "developmental" officials who will be added, bringing the total number of game officials to 140. Those new refs will be available to replace officials whose performance declines. In return, owners reportedly have agreed to pay the officials a "ratification bonus" which would compensate them for game checks lost through the first three weeks of the season.
The remaining stumbling block is the league's desire to do away with the pension plan for the officials, instead converting to 401K plans that are much cheaper for the owners and consistent with the league's push to get rid of pension plans.
The league has shown willingness to grandfather in plans for older officials, but stopped well short of completely giving in on that issue.
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