Report: NFL refs could return Thursday

Sept. 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The NFL and its game officials are on the verge of a deal that could put regular crews in place for this week's games, CBS Sports reported Wednesday.

The report was not specific on details but said enough compromise had taken place so a group of the league's full-time officials could work Thursday's game in Baltimore between the Ravens and Cleveland.

CBS said as of late Wednesday neither of those teams had been notified of any officiating changes for their game.

Replacements who usually work small-college games have been used by the NFL during the first three weeks of the season due to a negotiating impasse between owners and the regular officials that led to a lockout this summer.

Those replacements have come under heavy criticism since the start of the season, and fines have been levied on coaches and players for some of those remarks.

The situation grew worse last Monday, however, when an obvious mistake made at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game brought a torrent of ridicule on the NFL from writers, broadcasters and fans across the country.

Seattle was awarded a touchdown on the final play of the game when the officials ruled receiver Golden Tate caught a pass in the back of the end zone from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

Replays showed Tate shoved one defender aside while the ball was in the air, which should have brought about an interference penalty, and Green Bay's M.D. Jennings actually made an interception. Instead of winning the game 12-7, the Packers lost it 14-12.

The day after the game Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers apologized to NFL fans during a radio interview, saying he was doing so "because the league will not."

After taking perhaps the most severe national public relations hit it has suffered in recent years, the NFL soon resumed negotiations with their locked-out officials.

A source told the Los Angeles Times early Wednesday a federal mediator was involved in the talks.

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