Welcome Back, Refs. We Missed You

The regular NFL referees will be back for this weekend’s game, as two days of intense negotiations have finally brought an end to Lockout II: The Referees.  The negotiations kicked into high gear following the uproar over the mishandling of the end of the Seattle – Green Bay game on Monday Night Football, which highlighted for the NFL how big of a difference the referees can make in the outcome on the field.

We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games,” NFL Referees Association president Scott Green said.  Obviously the referees are happy, but the news is well received by players and fans across the league.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that was never more true than for the NFL referees who are usually not the most popular men on the field.  They might be viewed differently starting this week.

The Players of the National Football League and DeMaurice Smith released the following statement, “Our workplace is safer with the return of our professional referees. We welcome our fellow Union members back on our field.”

“Never thought I would be excited for the refs to come back to work but it’s about time it was definitely necessary!” Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns tweeted, who echoed the thoughts of many NFL players from C.J. Spiller to Jason Taylor who Tweeted welcome back messages to the referees.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was relieved as well.  Kluwe wrote an article saying that, although the Packers are a division rival, they were “royally horsebuggered” on Monday Night Football.  “It was a noble experiment, but I think ultimately a failed experiment, from what we’ve seen. It’ll be good not to have to worry about that when we’re on the field,” Kluwe said. “It’s good that it won’t be a distraction anymore.”

The new deal with the referees is eight years, from 2012 to 2019, so following the ten year deal with the players reached last year, fans should be able to settle in for an extended period of NFL peace.  Some of the key terms of the deal related to salary, pension and retirement benefits.

Salaries are scheduled to increase from $149,000 per year for 2011 for $173,000 in 2013 and continuing to rise to $205,000 in 2019.

The current pension plan will remain in place for officials through the 2016, and retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through an arrangement that consists of two components.  The league will make a contribution to the pension plan, starting with an average of about $18,000 per official, and the referees will have a 401k plan that they can contribute towards, with the league matching a portion of their contributions, similar to what many employers offer to their employees.

The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and, beginning in 2013, to hire additional officials on a full time basis.

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